With any type of garden, a gardener is always trying to maximize their yields. Many cannabis cultivators are turning to autoflowering varieties for the wide range of benefits they can provide. But, there is an overlying stigma that their smaller stature produces smaller yields. Like many ‘myths’ in cannabis, this is partly true. However, with the advancement of genetics and growing techniques it’s more feasible to produce high yield autoflowering crops, than ever before. But how? We’ll answer that question and much more with our ultimate how-to guide for maximizing autoflowering yields.
Start with Good Genetics
If you didn’t know already, not all genetics are treated equally. Like anything in life, there are premium breeders, and seedy knock-off breeders, too. Even strain to strain, crop weights will differ. So, it’s important to choose your seeds wisely. Beginning your autoflowering journey on the right foot is the first step in maximizing your crop.
To do so, make sure you’re purchasing your seeds from reputable breeders, with proven genetics. That’s because typically, if a mother plant outputs high yields, then so will the seeds of that plant. As long as the crop is well-cared for and maintained. So, it’s best to begin with premium genes, from trustworthy and reliable sources.
Secondly, ensure you do your research on the strain you choose, too. Similar to choosing a strain for its high levels of THC, ideal flavour, or effects…you’ll be selecting from genetics that are notorious for high autoflowering yields. But don’t worry, this won’t limit your options. As we mentioned, the advancement in breeding has exponentially expanded the number of autoflowering varieties now available. Overtime, high yield autoflowering strains have become stronger genetically, and increased in quantity.
Final Pot, First
Another key trait of autoflowering genetics, is their short life cycle. This allows growers to turnaround harvests fast, which can be maximized with a little thinking ahead of time. Especially in regard to your container or pot. Because of this shorter life cycle, autoflowering varieties are more susceptible to stress which can affect overall growth. So, to maximize your yields and ensure a healthy and happy life, start with your final pot, first. This will avoid transplanting later, which will cause unnecessary stress you’re trying to avoid.
Speaking of pots, it’s best to choose wisely for the type you plan to use, too. To start with size, bigger pots = bigger roots. Meaning your autoflowering plant can have the strong base it needs to grow the best, and most, it can. This goes for hydroponics too. Make sure your set-up is well-suited for the final size that your plant expects to be. For traditional systems, a 15-20 litre pot is best.
As for material or type of pots, air pots or fabric pots are ideal for high yield autoflower crops. Since the material is aerated, this promotes maximum drainage that helps optimal water, and avoids over-watering issues that can arise.
Again, healthy and happy roots lead to maximized growth. So, beginning with a grow medium that promotes nutrient uptake is definitely ideal. To do so, airy mediums are most recommended – hydroponically, or otherwise. Light or aerated soils promote an optimal environment that stimulates a stronger root system than others. If you’re using a standard soil there’s a few additions you can mix in that will help –
- Coco coir
For more information on choosing the best soil for maximizing autoflowering yields, check out our in-depth guide, here.
Lights Make A Difference
Just because autoflowering plants can flower with 24 hours of light, doesn’t mean the type of light doesn’t matter. Lights provide plants with the vital energy they need to grow. So, the better the light, the higher your autoflowering yields can be. For optimal energy, you’ll want to choose a lighting system that produces higher lumens. Lumens, by definition, is the measure of the total quantity of visible light emitted. Hence, why you’d want to maximize the possible power.
Even though autoflowering varieties will thrive regardless of lights, to nurture high yield autoflowering plants, LED and HPS lights are best. These light types have the ability to produce maximum lumens, and are full-spectrum in nature. When using the sun outdoors for natural light and energy, ensure that your autoflowering crop is getting at least 10-12 hours of sunlight a day. For indoors, you’ll want to maintain at least 18 hours of light per day.
Although light cycles won’t change throughout the grow cycle of your autoflowering crops, nutrients will. They also differ quite a bit from regular varieties too, so make sure you’re well-versed on feeding autoflowers if you’re looking to maximize yields. Unlike photoperiod plants, with autoflowering plants – less is more. Here are a few tricks of the trade to follow, on making sure your autoflower crop has the ideal levels of nutrients –
Start low & slow
For starters, avoid nutrients completely during the seedling stage of your plant. Stick to just water for the first 2 weeks or so. From there, you can begin adding nutrients into the mix but do so at 50% of the amount that you normally would, or that the specific nutrient recommends. That will remain for the entire life cycle of the plant, since autoflowering plants require less nutrients overall to optimize growth. As nodes multiply, you can begin increasing your nutrients slowly by 25% increments. You can further maximize crops by adding bloom nutrients to the mix, during the last few weeks of growth ending with a full week flush.
Avoid fertilized soil
Soil with fertilizer can be too much for autoflowering plants to handle. To maximize nutrient uptake, and to minimize your plant from burning, avoid heavy fertilized soils.
Like regular varieties, pH balance is key in maximizing autoflowering yields, and nurturing healthy growth. When pH levels are off, your plant won’t be able to uptake nutrients optimally for maximum growth. For instance, plants cannot absorb vital nutrients calcium and magnesium, when pH is below 5.5. This means it’s highly important to check your pH frequently throughout your plant’s life cycle, so ensure it’s receiving the nutrients it needs.
For hydroponics, or soil growth here are the average pH levels to strive for –
- Hydroponics – 5.5 – 6.5 pH
- Soil – 6.0 – 7.0 pH
Using training techniques on autoflowering plants, is a big debate amongst growers. While some recommend lst autoflower techniques, some say not to implement any training at all. If you’re willing to experiment to maximize yields, these are the top tips to follow when training autoflower plants –
- LST (low-stress training) – Low stress training is the bending and manipulation of stems to maximize light coverage. The bending of branches typically doesn’t cause enough stress to stunt growth, and can produce bigger buds vs. popcorn buds at lower parts of the branches. LST can be started from a younger vegetative stage, or used throughout its life cycle.
- SOG (sea of green) – The sea of green or SOG technique involves putting multiple small plants close together, to maximize space for higher yields. This method allows you to avoid other training methods, and grow multiple strains at once with heftier harvests.
- Topping – Topping is when growers cut off the ‘top’ of the main stem, diverting the plant to grow multiple colas versus only one. To avoid a stunt in growth, you’ll want to wait until your plant is healthy and thriving before implementing this training technique. This is typically after 20+ days of growth.
Over-watering is one of the #1 stressors for autoflowering plants. Especially amongst beginner growers. Giving your plants too much water, can cause unnecessary stress that will stunt growth, and minimize overall yields. To avoid over-watering, always check the weight of the pot before feeding. When your pot feels light, it’ll need to be watered. If it’s slightly heavy and is at all resistant to lifting, hold off on watering.
Final Tips for Increasing Yields
If you want to take the basics even further for high autoflowering yields, there are a few final tips you can follow. Take these last techniques into consideration, when seeking to maximize yields –
- Use CO2 – CO2 is beneficial for autoflowering varieties due to its stimulation of photosynthesis. In general, when using CO2 in your grow space you can expect higher quality results. Including higher yields. Of course, only add CO2 if all other conditions in your grow are optimal. Otherwise, the additional boost won’t be as beneficial.
- Add plant support – The stronger supports you have in place, the bigger and heavier nugs your autoflowering plant can produce. To strengthen your ability for maximum yields, use bamboo stakes, green-tie, netting, or tomato cages to give your plant additional support for strength.
- Harvest wisely – Make sure you don’t harvest too early, or else you’ll be cutting off your chances of higher yields, and better quality buds. We suggest using the ‘trichome test’ near the harvest date provided by the breeder, to ensure the colouring of your trichomes are ready to harvest. The buds at the top of your plant might be ready for harvesting, prior to the ones in the lower areas that get lesser light. In this case, you can implement ‘progressive harvesting’, where you harvest buds when they’re ready allowing other areas to develop further.
Ready, Set, Grow!
Now that you’re aware of the pro-tips to maximize autoflowering yields, it’s ready, set, go to begin growing bigger gains. When growing autoflowers for maxed out yields, not only does starting with the right strain, and seed matter, but every step along the way will make a difference, too. Stay tuned for the latest and greatest autoflowering tips, tricks, and new genetics to get the most out of your efforts, and growth.