How to


Monster Cropping Cannabis: A step by step guide

Monster cropping is a plant training technique that allows growers to achieve desired big yields while continually harvesting their cannabis crop and bypassing the need for mother plants. Clones are taken from flowering plants, rooted, and induced to return to their vegetative states by manipulating their light cycle, which causes them to grow bushier and with more side branches.

This plant training method is precarious but versatile. It can be easily combined with low-stress training techniques such as the Screen of Green (SCRoG) or tying down. The growth habit of re-vegged flowering plants is vigorous, with increased bud sites which are attractive for cultivators who want to maximise their growing space.

The grower thinking about monster cropping their marijuana plants should start by considering one of the basic building blocks to any successful cultivation operation: clones.

What Are Clones? Why Are They Useful?

There are two ways to start growing cannabis: seeds or clones. This tutorial will focus on clones as they are key to successful monster cropping.

Clones are cuttings taken off of a “mother plant” in its vegetative phase. After they have rooted, clones are planted and develop into a new plant that is genetically identical to the mother. This genetic consistency is one of the many advantages offered by a clone crop.

Genetic consistency is highly prized among growers and is the foundation for famous cannabis strains such as Zkittles, Gelato, Sour Diesel, and Super Lemon Haze grown around the world. Growing clones is the tried-and-tested way to stabilise the desired traits of cannabis plants – such as flavourful, distinctive terpenes and vigorous growth habits – allowing them to be grown year after year.

This is an agricultural and horticultural practice that goes back for many centuries, and any growers with gardening experience who have divided plants to propagate them have practised a form of cloning.

Each new generation of clones will express the same flavour, taste, and effects in their flowers as the mother it was cut from. Cultivators find clones advantageous as they will have the same rate of development across the crop of clones which reduces the number of variables to manage and simplifies scheduling and nutrient programmes.

Seed plants, although vigorous, express a broader range of variability in their growth habits which makes managing a seed crop a little more unpredictable.
Growing out clones will allow cultivators to become highly familiar with the specific characteristics of their strains, which is handy for managing the challenges of growing.

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Word to the Mothers

Cloning can’t happen without mother plants, and there are different strategies growers can implement to maintain them. As a best practice, clones are taken from mothers in their vegetative stage. Growers can keep their mothers perpetually vegging to produce clones as long as needed.

Growers selecting clones of different strains may choose to flower their mothers after taking cuttings to develop a sense of the final product – and what to look forward to in the clones they have taken. This is also a viable strategy for growers with limited space and resources who are unable to dedicate a setup entirely to vegging mother plants.

Keeping mother plants in the vegetative phase requires a 24/0 or 18/6 light cycle, as well as a nutrient and feeding programme tailored to help its recovery from the repeated cutting process (high in calcium to strengthen cell walls, limited nitrogen to minimise rapid growth). An organic growing medium is also recommended, which will allow mother plants to build resistance to disease and pathogens.
Maintaining mother plants is challenging and not without risk. For example, clones taken from a sick mother may harbour the same disease or virus, jeopardising any future generations of plants. Mother plants kept in the same growing spaces may also become a vector for pests such as aphids, which can easily carry over into the clones and cause growers stress and anxiety. There have been nightmare scenarios where cannabis farmers have lost their carefully cultivated genetics as a result of an infected or unclean mother grow room!

Monster cropping bypasses the need for keeping mother plants by creating clones from plants that are already flowering. The grower solves the difficult challenge of keeping mother plants alive and healthy by using this technique.
As a bonus, the re-vegging of flowering cannabis plants will cause welcome changes to their growth habits. Finally, growers will be pleased to find out that monster cropping, done correctly, will allow them to have multiple harvests. Read on to find out best practices for monster cropping and how to take full advantage of this unique training technique.

Monster cropping techique used on cannabis plants

How to Monster Crop Cannabis Plants

There is no proven method to guarantee one hundred per cent cloning success rates in traditional cloning (tissue culture micropropagation is a different story). Monster cropping is quite precarious as it places cuttings under more stress. Growers can maximise their chances by using sterilised equipment and containers.

Tools for cloning:

  • Sharpened scissors, scalpel or knives to take cuttings
  • 90% or greater alcohol for disinfecting tools in between cuttings
  • Deionised or distilled water to soak cuttings (if not using rooting gel) or rooting gel
  • Disinfected jars or glass containers to hold cuttings
  • Rooting medium
  • Rooting hormone (if necessary)

1. Select plants to clone

Ideal candidates for monster cropping are the healthiest, most vigorous plants. Cuttings taken from plants that have struggled with stunted growth, pests, disease, or have been slow to reach growth milestones will make the process more difficult. For best results, do not take cuttings later than the second or third week of the flowering phase.

2. Take cuttings

Start the cutting process by wiping the tool with alcohol to disinfect it. Select a lower branch to cut as these generally root faster than higher branches. If possible, choose a low branch that is shaded as the flowers on it won’t have developed as much as others with better light exposure. Carefully defoliate the branch, and be sure to keep its highest two or three leaves intact.

Choose a point two or three nodes down the branch from the branch tip, and swiftly cut diagonally across the stem to take the cutting. This style of cut will increase the surface area available for absorption of water and nutrients, facilitating the process of root growth.

Be sure to disinfect tools in between cuttings.

3. Root cuttings

Place cuttings into sterilised containers with distilled water immediately after taking them. A rooting gel can also be used instead of water. Cuttings can be kept in these containers until roots develop, or the grower can place them in a rooting medium of their choice, such as perlite or Rockwool cubes.

4. Re-veg

Growers can re-induce vegetative growth in their cuttings by keeping them under grow lights for 18-24 hours. Re-vegging will cause cuttings to grow peculiarly, with bushier new growth and plenty of side branches. This is advantageous for the grower with limited space as the plants will finish wider than they will be tall, exposing more bud sites to an increased amount of light that would have been obstructed by taller growth.

5. Training time

After three or four weeks of re-vegging, growers can implement stress techniques to promote even more lateral growth. Topping and SCRoG screens are two lst methods that will have plenty of synergies with the short, flat, and wide plants that result from monster cropping.

Growers can implement a SCRoG screen to increase the yields of monster-cropped plants. The wide and flat canopies of monster crops will benefit from strategically defoliating leaves or bud sites in any shaded areas below, redirecting energy to bud sites and resulting in large, dense, resinous quality buds. Lollipopping is another viable technique that pairs well with monster-cropping.

6. Re-cut, harvest

When the monster-cropped plants enter their flowering stage, the next generation of cuttings can be taken, restarting the process all over again. By this point, the grower will have their initial harvest in (from the first plants the cuttings were taken from) and can look forward to a second harvest!

Keep in mind

Monster cropping is a technique that would best serve experienced growers, as it is quite meticulous, and beginners may find it challenging to juggle maintaining and harvesting multiple crops in different stages of development over long periods. It can add as many as nine or ten weeks to a grower’s operation, depending on how long cuttings are kept in veg.

The technique relies on photoperiod manipulation and will not work on autoflowering plants which do not rely on a light schedule to dictate their development. Finally, clone cuttings of flowering plants have a lower success rate than clones cut from vegetating plants. Growers should take more cuttings than they need.

Post author
Martin is a production horticulturist with experience in commercial cannabis cultivation and sustainable farming from his time with Emerald Cup Award-winning farmers Esensia Gardens in northern California's Emerald Triangle.
See more from Martin

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