Anyone growing cannabis soon discovers that it’s not exactly rocket science. These are tough plants that can take quite a beating. However, anyone trying to make the most out of their grows and maximise harvests can try a host of grow techniques, one of which is mainlining. This technique will not only yield more buds and bigger harvests, but is also perfect for growing in confined spaces. So what is cannabis mainlining and how does it work? Find out below!
What Is Cannabis Mainlining?
Strictly speaking, all a cannabis plant needs is water, nutrients, fresh air, and sunlight. This is enough to facilitate growth, flowering, and high quality buds. If you want to invest minimal time in your plants, these four factors will suffice. However, growers looking to boost their harvest yields can achieve more by mainlining their cannabis crops.
In normal circumstances, cannabis plants grow into a specific, genetically predetermined shape, giving each specimen a single dominant cola bud surrounded by a number of smaller flowers. Applying mainlining techniques allows growers to direct that growth, resulting in multiple equal-sized buds instead.
This enables plants to develop several main branches, whether 8, 16, or even 32 if the technique is repeated. The available space is the main limiting factor. The more buds a plant develops, the taller it will tend to grow.
On average, plants with eight main branches will grow up to around 60cm. Plants with 16 buds will reach 1m at least; at 32 colas, they will easily reach past 2m.
Cannabis mainlining is a combined technique involving topping as well as low stress training aspects. It can be applied by beginners and advanced growers, but make no mistake: mainlining can be a source of severe stress to your plant, in spite of its low-stress components. Mainlining comes with risks, but if applied successfully, these are offset by the added yields come harvest time. So is cannabis mainlining worth the trouble? We’ll list the pros and cons below.
Pros And Cons Of Mainlining Cannabis
So is mainlining worth the trouble? This grow technique sure has some interesting advantages, but there’s some downsides as well. The summary below let any grower decide for themselves.
Benefits Of Cannabis Mainlining Techniques
Mainlining is a great technique for cannabis growers with limited space available. Mainlining makes for maximum yields on a confined floor surface by promoting growth of multiple main buds per plant. Come harvest time, you’ll see exactly what these benefits entail.
Moreover, mainlining is a relatively straightforward cannabis grow technique. Risks of (permanent) damage are minimal, as the stress and potential damage to the plants is confined to the initial stages of the grow. Once the main branches have formed, maintaining a mainlined plant is fairly easy.
Thirdly, cannabis mainlining is a very efficient way to make the most out of a limited grow space and limited lighting options. As an added bonus, mainlined plants tend to grow very evenly, making them a feast to the eye long before harvest time arrives.
The Downsides Of Mainlining
The main downside of mainlining is its tendency to extend the vegetative stage of cannabis plants. That means your plants will take longer to start flowering; one or two weeks longer in most cases. The reason for this delay is the stress caused by the early-stage topping interventions – plants will need some time to recover.
Also keep in mind that mainlining is not a suitable technique for autoflower cannabis strains. Autoflowers have way shorter flowering times. Applying mainlining would result in so much stress for these plants that recovery would take about half of their entore life cycle. This makes autoflower genetics unfit for mainlining.
Applying mainlining to indoor cannabis grows calls for some high wattage lighting to make sure the light reaches all the way down to the lower branches. The minimum recommendation here is using 150W HPS, LED, or MH lights.
Another factor to consider is the height of the grow room. Eight-branch plants require at least 75cm from floor to ceiling, and multiplying the number of buds calls for progressively higher grow rooms.
Mainlining Cannabis In 4 Steps
Now that you know what mainlining is, along with it pros and cons,y ou’re ready to put it to practice using the four steps explained below.
Step 1: Getting Started
In order to make this technique work, you first need to know about nodes. In plant biology, nodes are the points where side branches grow out of the stem. The origin of a lateral branch is a node; the space in between two nodes is called internode, or internodal space.
With that out of the way, we are ready for step 1 of cannabis mainlining. Let’s assume that after germinating and planting your cannabis seeds, they grew into healthy young seedlings. Leave these to grow until the plant produces at least six internodes. This ensures a well-developed root system and the fortitude your cannabis plants need to recover from the initial stress caused by the mainlining approach.
Step 2: Shaping The Plant
When the seedling reaches the appropriate height, cut the stem right above the third node, counting up from the soil. To do so, use the cutting technique discussed in our Topping Grow Blog. This third node is where your mainlining efforts begin. Leave the fan leaves of the third node intact, but remove all remaining foliage and plant material below this node. This will leave you with a bare stem, which will make the plant focus all its energy on the crucial third node. Your work should now result in a single central stem with two fan leaves split into a Y-shape.
Step 3: Topping And Training
Now, leave the two remaining branches to grow until they have four internodes each. Support the plant wherever necessary by tying branches down. Again, remove all excess plant material at the second node and remove all branches and leaves below the third node. You are now making your way to the eight main branches that you were after. Make sure the branches grow horizontally by applying low stress training. This gives all branches equal room to grow as they recover from the earlier cuttings.
Step 4: Towards 8 Buds
Your plants are now growing steadily through their vegetative phase. Keep an eye on developments and make sure the branches are trained horizontally. By the time she starts to flower, you’ll see 8 main branches or even more if you repeat the topping process. If you want to give that a try, let every branch grow out to 5 nodes, top the branches as described above, and then remove excess foliage again.
If you feel eight colas is enough, or if you lack the space to go further, just let the horizontal branches find their own way back up towards the light from the point where they’re tied down. This creates a crown-shaped plant sporting multiple main branches, soon to be studded with glistening buds for crown jewels. You nailed it!
If all goes according to plan, your cannabis plant can start to flower after you complete the mainlining activities. You don’t want to stress her any further from here on out. Once flowering gets underway, you’d better get ready… Once your mainlining project nears completion, your cannabis plant may start to look like the stunner featured in these pictures!
More Buds, Or Stop At Eight?
Cannabis growers that really got the hang of mainlining can keep on repeating the technique after reaching eight buds. If your plant can deal with the stress, however, those eight buds can become sixteen, and then thirty-two. The trick is knowing when to stop, however. Ask yourself if you really want to stress your plants even more, and whether you’re prepared to postpone that flowering stage even further. If so, fell free to proceed. If mainlining is not your cup of cannabis tea after all, just browse our selection of Grow Blogs to find out what works for you!
Cannabis mainlining is a technique that helps your plant focus its full energy supply on just a few branches instead of a whole bush. If done right, all colas will develop similarly and blossom into an abundant harvest.
No matter whether you’re an expert of many harvests, or simply going for your first one, we definitely suggest giving this technique a try!