by Keef Treez "The Defoliator"
Defoliation is an extreme marijuana growth technique. It's not to be done lightly.
In fact, the topic of defoliation is one of the most controversial subjects in the marijuana growing field. People on both sides defend their position vehemently.
I'm on the side that believe there is absolutely nothing stressful about defoliation or bending branches. Honestly, there is no way to achieve nearly a pound of buds from a 2-3 foot tall plant indoors, except using defoliation.
Opponents often have arguments like, "PLANTS NEED THOSE LEAVES! If they didn't, they wouldn't be there."
Or my all-time favorite, "I have a friend who used to grow, and he insists that will hurt the plant."
Yet the saddest part of all is how so few people are willing to look at the evidence.
In some ways, I almost would prefer the rest of the growing world keep up their ill-advised lollipopping, removing growing tips, and other low-yield techniques. The defoliation technique has been loudly condemned by "experienced" growers for decades. Nevertheless, I am determined to educate other growers about defoliating and let them see the results for themselves.
So let me start by giving you some picture proof that defoliation works (make sure you scroll down to see all of them!).
You see, I've been defoliating intensively for 30 years. I am now training plants to be 32" tall and 32" round and yielding 250-400 grams under 400 watt lamp.
buds of marijuana harvested off each short, easy-to-manage 32" tall plant, using
just a regular 400 watt HID grow light.
Here are two of my beauties (the one on the right needs a good plucking)
How-To Tutorial: The Controversial Technique of Defoliation
Despite all the evidence (I've posted hundreds of pictures and shown dozens of growers in person), there is still somehow so much skepticism about defoliation techniques. Growers, especially new growers, often just say variations of, "It's common sense, how could removing any part of the plant cause you to get higher yields?"
I recently attended an advanced seminar with a prominent fellow grower and got roundly booed when attempting to describe the defoliation technique, even with pictures showing dramatic benefits.
Unlike many other growers, I believe what's most important is studying how the plant actually grows, instead of assuming she grows how we think she should grow. Real experimentation and unbiased observers are the only way growers are going to learn how to get the best yields for the amount of time, money, and effort.
And it's true that some types of defoliation are brutal to the plants (such as when misguided growers removing all the leaves off extremely young marijuana plants), but other types of defoliation are actually hugely beneficial to increasing yields (I'll be showing you exactly what do do shortly).
And defoliation is beneficial for more than just marijuana, it also has been proven to increase yields for certain other types of crops. For example, it's well-known that cowpeas experience significant increases in yields when up to 50% of their leaves are defoliated during their flowering stage… (source)
And it's true that the real beauty of defoliation is difficult to translate in pictures and verbally.
But I will do my best to give you everything you need to start producing your own huge yields with marijuana defoliation.
But First, Let Me Show You About Increased Bud Production With Defoliation During the Flowering Stage
Immediately After Plucking
Just 4 days later, look at the incredible bud growth
Only 4 Days After That (after another defoliation session)
Are you beginning to see the power of defoliation?
How Early Do You Start Defoliating?
I first started defoliating in desperation after many years of SOG, which I feel has proven to be too much work for inconsistent yields. After much experimentation, I've found my yields have been more consistent when training a single plant to use this space instead of 4 or 9 or 25 SOG clones.
Never mind the fact that in many states, patients are limited to just a handful of plants, removing SoG as a viable option.
Most growers who are curious about this do not want to perform defoliation on small plants. They consider the practice in veg to be too radical. And I 100% agree that totally stripping your seedlings of all leaves will be devastating to their growth.
And the honest truth is that defoliation isn't for everyone. Beginners are often already dealing with the drawbacks to their choice of method or media, and defoliation can be disastrous to any but the healthiest of plants.
Because of this, I sometimes hesitate to throw defoliation into the mix of challenges for beginning growers and I strongly advise any growers to experiment with defoliation (or with any extreme growth control method) in the vegetative stage only where there is nothing at stake.
That being said, I believe the only reason you should allow a marijuana plant to leaf out completely is in an outdoor situation where you want as large a plant as possible. In that case you can save deleafing for mid to late summer after full-stretch and branching.
The way I practice this method (growing indoors) leaves never get a chance to age. No leaves are allowed more than about two weeks existence. I start at the top in order to remove the shading. Removing lower leaf contributes nothing to the strategy of exposing usually shaded out mid and lower growth to premium light. I still remove older shabby leaves to keep it all tidy.
And this is where defoliation gets controversial. Many growers feel that controlling their plant in any way during the vegetative stage will significantly reduce yields. And I understand how it can seem that way, especially to new growers, before you've gone through the entire life cycle of the marijuana plant a few times.
Experiments show, again and again, that large plants with intensively prepared structure during extended Veg cycle yield far more than untrained, smaller, force-flowered inpiduals.
Small marijuana plants that are forced to flower when extremely young are
can be fun as an experiment, but produce pitiful yields. Investing more time
in the vegetative stage to gain girth, while controlling the shape and growth
of the plant, has dramatically increased yields for me.
The truth is, that with marijuana, the real 'secret sauce' to getting enormous yields is when you've perfectly prepared your plants for the flowering stage. As any grower knows, once you're deep into flowering, there isn't a whole lot you can do about huge, out-of-control plants except hold on, pray for the best, and do better next time.
I DO NOT lollipop and advice strongly against it. I use defoliation to skillfully and artfully prepare plants during the vegetative stage, so that lollipopping becomes completely unnecessary. I am on a mission to refocus growing technique to never remove ANY productive growth. I believe only leaves should be removed.
Ultimately, the defoliation technique is a huge tool in the grower's toolbox that allows you to dominate the Vegetative stage. Then it can be used in the Flowering stage to maximize yields.
Defoliation is the Big Secret to High-Yield, Compact Marijuana Plants
My style involves intensive defoliation along with the twist and train method (a version of supercropping) using a basic net for support.
I only top once, if at all, at the 5th or 6th node(approximately) depending on the height and structure of a given clone. I also deleaf them at this time. The only plants that get more topping than that are because they had clones taken from them. I don't usually keep dedicated mothers, instead, I just clone the clones and cycle everything through.
Here is a close-up of a veg clone getting it's second stripping.
To get the best results, you should start defoliation in the vegetative stage. Leaf removal in bud is beneficial after stretch but most important to yields is management and the creation of a more compact plant with more budding sites in a given size.
Stripping and bending takes practice but you must do it to get practice. By starting in veg you risk no bud. Veg plants are replaceable so experiment and be ready to devote a little more time to prepare them.
I'd describe my stripping as "aggressive." Once your plant is trained to deal with defoliation, it's hard to go wrong. Plus, after years of experience, I've become very familiar with how these plants grow and always know what my outcome will be.
But defoliation doesn't end in the vegetative stage. I also continue to pull the fan leaves off of my flowering plants to expose the buds.
As far as when and how often, I don't get too scientific about it.
Usually if things look leafy, meaning that you see more leaf than budsites when viewing the crop, it may be time for another deleafing. It usually takes a week to 10 days for a plant to releaf to the point that there are 2-4 new leaves that have flattened and greened enough to deleaf again.
This repeated releafing process allows that lower growth to benefit from the maturing of the immediate leaf mass.
Leaf removal stimulates lower and mid bud growth by exposing those normally shaded out areas to premium light. Of course those new to the technique should start slow, but if you start too slow you won't remove enough leaf to see the best result.
You basically want to prevent any 'shade' from happening.
Here's an example of how I deleaf a girl who is 2 weeks into 12-12 (flowering)
Notice how, you can now see light all the way through the plant. This is a good thing for light, as opposed to seeing nothing but leaves in the before pic.
Wait, did you say you wanted to see what kind of buds I get at the BOTTOM of the plant?
You get extensive bottom growth on defoliated plants
This is on the morning of harvest. While some are obsessed with top growth I like well developed bottoms. Tops are a given. If bottoms are this well developed the tops are certainly getting their share of light. Some guys like tops, some like bottoms. I like my girls to be equally well developed.
Ready to Get Started?
You can start easy and try to save leaves but what happens when you see the results like all the mid growth exploding with the new exposure. It would serve logic that if you remove a little and there is good results than remove more and on and on until you get comfortable with stripping down these girls.
I recommend you start deleafing as soon as your plants start looking 'bushy' at all. Start with removing the fans from all the branches and watch the results. Then remove progressively more. Don't remove any branches or sites if you want to commit to this method.
The idea is shade removal, NOT budsite removal. Allow them to releaf for a week or so and remove again when they look leafy.
This girl is 32"sq. and under 30" tall. She was thoroughly plucked continuously through her 11 week flowering cycle as well as during veg. No shortage of branches or buds, all of them chunky and exposed. I ended up harvesting 12 ounces off her. Marijuana plants do not get like this on their own. Stripping in veg and throughout bud is the only way to get results like this.
Answer to the 3 Most Common Questions About Marijuana Defoliation
1.) Which Fan Leaves Can Be Plucked?
That was the short answer.
I remove everything that is easily pinched off with the thumbnail and forefinger. I keep a little bit of a cutting tool for a thumbnail specifically for that purpose.
I don't try to get in super close to the buds once they get sticky unless it is just intolerably crowded. Any leaf that is attached by enough of a peristem to be plucked easily is fair game.
Bud leaves are attached deeper in the bud cluster and are difficult to remove by hand. I do not yank or pull down on the leaf. I snip it off with the thumbnail. Don't sweat the stubs that are left, they dry out and fall off. Best not to try to cut so close to the plant, especially in mold prone climates.
2.) Can Defoliation Be Used with Any Growing Medium?
Yes. Medium is not a factor. Go with what you like.
Defoliation works great for marijuana grown in soil, coco coir, perlite, vermiculite, DWC, bubbleponics, and any other growing medium that marijuana grows in.
3.) I've Never Defoliated and Now I'm Several Weeks into Flowering with Tall, BUSHY Out-of-Control Plants… Can I Still Start Defoliating?
If you've never defoliated before, go conservative to start, even if your plants look healthy.
Do it moderately at first and a little more daily. Pluck fan leaves to prevent branches from growing taller. During the flowering stage, you'll be able to see the increase in bud production.
So there you have it, a basic introduction to defoliation for huge yields. It's about time defoliation went mainstream!
About the Author:
Keef Treez "The Defoliator" has run several threads on ICMag.com, Overgrow, and CannabisWorld which continue to be very popular and controversial even years after they were created, receiving millions of hits. He is located in a beautiful high country area where he legally provides as a caregiver.
View his thread about defoliation on ICMag.com: http://www.icmag.com/ic/showthread.php?t=174163