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Some Canopy Management techniques.

Posted by Jason Rider on

Lately I've been speaking a lot about the need for Canopy Management and top-growth control. I've spoken about it in blogs, at trade-shows like the Indo Expo, with my clients and most recently on withKC Stark and Charles Houghton.  

A lot of eyebrows were raised and I have seen that thinking about Canopy Management is something hasn't reached the mainstream. Many people do this naturally and plan for the difficulties posed by success, but most non-professional growers and gardeners do not.

Canopy Management is not new, but it is a concept that, when capitalized, can help a lot of people to improve their grows - regardless of what technique is used. 

Topping, pruning, C-Bites, rubber coated garden stakes, tomato clips and long twist are some of the strategies and tools that I use to control my plants output. Other growers may choose yo-yos, twine, vinyl strap, tomato cages, hog-wire, bamboo forests, pvc, higher plant counts, etc and whatever... 

the which-way is not the point: The point is that the canopy can be managed to improve output.

So, with the need to think about canopy management comes the need to learn how to do it; and that is the purpose of this post: to give you some ideas as you work canopy control into your yield improvement cycle.


First, as with any management scenario, planning for the end is done at the beginning. What is the outcome? If it is to maximize the plant's yield, then we will have to start when the plant is young. 

Good in the beginning helps with the good in the end.

By topping and selectively pruning young plants, nodal growth is encouraged. A plant knows what to do when its conditions change. This does not apply to everything that I grow, but in many cases, I top early and before a plant is too tall. I want the bottom branches to stretch and compete with the top branches. By doing this I have more tops and fewer bottoms and will ultimately require fewer plants to reach optimal canopy coverage for the growing space.

What does an optimal canopy look like?  

An optimal canopy is the most best-parts closest to the most best-light.

Indoors and in any urban garden setting this is of huge importance, because the quality and intensity of artificial light diminishes rapidly with distance, regardless of which fixture is used. 

Once the canopy is defined it needs to be controlled. This is the middle. The general process is to make a structure that gives plants a stable footprint in which to grow and be trained. 

My method is to know where the band of optimal light and temperature is, build a cage with spans at those determined heights, and then torture and coax the plant's branches into that optimal band: Too close and they get burned and stunted; too far and they are starved and stunted.

Many people just move their lights up as the plant grows... OK, but I have seen that this cheats the plant of its potential by diminishing the quality of light where the best is growing.

Outcomes should never be sacrificed on the altar of ease.

I use ties, tomato clips, spans, twine and wire in addition to C-Bites and stakes to follow the plant as it grows and keep it where I want.  Call me a control freak, I don't care. Adjustable clips and spans allow me to lower the body of the plant as it grows and I don't need to re-tie the branches. I also use the container (with C-Bites) as an anchor point. 

There are lots of other things in the system of this idea. Things that work the optimal canopy principal (posited above)... rotating and turning pots, light rails, improved HVAC and CO2 containment, plant type and strain... the list goes on and on. This aside relates to my ecological thinking about systems and the interdependence of its parts; pluck a strand and the whole web vibrates...

It takes some time and effort and some know-how, but I assure you: By incorporating some of these canopy management and top-growth control ideas into your gardening methods you will not be sad.

Thanks for reading this wordy fool's blog