When cultivating weed indoors, it's essential to do so as efficiently as possible. Indoor crops often work with limited grow space, and the added expense of artificial light compels growers to maximize their resources. Cultivators face this challenge with every crop: how do you make the best use of limited space and ensure every plant gets as much light as it needs?
Necessity is the mother of invention. As cannabis cultivators moved indoors in the 1980s and 1990s, they began to experiment with techniques that would maximize yields with limited resources. One such technique surpassed the rest and spread through the cultivation community over the years: the sea of green method.
What is sea of green?
The "sea of green" method, also known as "SOG," is a low-stress technique that grows many small cannabis plants at once as opposed to a few larger plants. Sea of green plays on the idea that if plants in a small space are forced into their flowering phase early, they only need to grow to half their size to support cola development. The small plants flower in less time and take up less space — a win-win situation.
The sea of green method clusters your many plants in tight quarters together under grow lights. As the plants grow together, they develop a canopy of buds under the light, creating the so-named "sea of green."
With equally given care, regular nutrition, and a watchful eye on each plant, you can raise a successful SOG crop in any grow room.
How much does a sea of green plant yield?
A SOG yield per plant depends on the number and types of plants you cultivate. During the flowering phase, a SOG-grown cannabis plant will develop a single large cola at the top. These plants require little training to develop their buds aside from typical plant upkeep.
While these smaller plants may not develop as many colas as a 10-foot-tall sativa, you can grow many more plants in a smaller space and produce similar yields with SOG.
A healthy grow space is a must for ideal yields. SOG plants require correct pot size, type of light, water pH, nutrients, soil types, environmental conditions, and other growth factors. Cultivators who dial in their formulas can tease maximum yields per square foot out of their SOG crops.
How to use the sea of green method
It takes just a few simple steps to cultivate a successful crop with SOG.
First, either germinate seeds or obtain cuttings of other plants to create clones. It's easier to use clones for your SOG crop because you can make sure the plants are of the same cultivar and will grow the same way, all conditions being equal.
Place your plants in pots that are seven to twelve inches across, to ensure they have enough soil to develop healthy roots. Arrange your pots with approximately one or two plants per square foot, being careful not to place the plants too close together. This creates a seamless plant surface area, and while this at first sounds like a good idea, it encourages the plants to compete with each other for light and stresses the plants. More stress conserves biomass, and in turn, limits the production of buds.
Once your plants are snug in their pots, light your grow space with 18/24 hours of light until they reach 10-12 inches in height. Be careful that your plants are at even height, so each one is receiving an equal amount of light.
This phase of the growing cycle is called the vegetative stage, and how long a crop stays here depends on the cultivator's preference. Some grow each plant at 18/24 light until they reach around 10 to 12 inches (25 to 30 cm) in height. Other growers will switch the lighting cycle when the plants are 4-6 weeks old, or even six inches tall.
It's not recommended to switch from the vegging phase sooner than four weeks, as the plants aren't quite mature enough for flowering. Adding an extra week or two may boost yields as it's all about finding the perfect ratio of yield to harvest speed.
When you're ready to switch to the flowering phase, convert your light cycle to 12 hours of light and 12 of darkness. The light switch will force each plant to create a wide canopy of green, focusing all their energy into developing a single cola.
It's important to keep light evenly spread in this phase and far enough from the plants to prevent any hot spots. Pro tip: as the canopy develops, trim the branches underneath to propagate as clones for future SOG crops.
Finally, it's harvest time when your plants are ready. A good indicator of harvest readiness is the clarity of your buds' trichomes: once they're white and cloudy, your SOG crop is ready to go.
How long should I veg for best yield?
It all depends on the resources you have to work with and how much time you have to produce your crop. Most growers will veg for four to six weeks or when their plants reach ten inches in height. Some cultivators switch to the flowering light regimen when the marijuana plants are only about six inches tall, or two to three weeks into their growth.
Other SOG method growers who can invest in larger pots and don't need to cram as many plants per square foot can allow for more extended vegging states, up to seven or eight weeks. The larger pots provide more room for roots to spread. Adjust based on your growing situation, space, and the strain you're cultivating and know that practice makes perfect. Successful SOG is all about finding the ideal balance between yield, growing conditions, and fast harvest time.
Do clones flower faster than seeds?
The SOG method is especially useful when working with clones. A clone is a cutting from an adult cannabis plant that can be replanted and produce buds. Clones save you the trouble of popping male seeds on accident or obtaining a cultivar of poor quality. And while clones face many of their own issues when it comes to successful replanting, they do flower faster than their seed counterparts.
Clones reach maturity more quickly because they're further along in their development than a cannabis seed yet to pop. Clones also guarantee identical plants in your SOG spread, helping ensure your canopy is the same height and produces the same flowers.
However, it's essential to understand that flowering time varies from cultivar to cultivar. Each variety of cannabis may take more or less time to flower, regardless of the SOG method. Too, not every strain is viable using SOG. Indicas generally perform better than sativas, as they naturally have faster flowering cycles and develop shorter plants. Know what strain you're growing and its average flowering time to ensure a thriving SOG canopy of buds.