Train your plant
While plants grow you can train them to give the shape you want and to maximise the final weight. Good moment to start is when the plant shows a minimum of 3 nodes, and it's possible to continue training until the end of the stretch. Avoid cutting apex from the moment you switch the light cycle.
The idea here is to bend, cut or pinch apex and branches to allow them to receive more light.
There is many techniques to train your plant, you can follow one, or mix them or simply let your plant grow naturally :
What technique to choose according to my situation :
If you grow pure indica : They usually grow short and stocky. Be aware that High Stress Technic will make the vegetative phase longer.
If you grow pure sativa : They usually grow thin and tall, so it's often indispensable to use a training technique to control the height.
Natural growth :
When the plant is not touched, it will usually take a christmas tree shape, with one main cola and surrounding smaller branches.
This natural approach will let the plant grow by itself.
Some strains naturally produce many branches while some will have almost no branches and focus only on the main bud.
Low Stress Training (LST) :
This is a very useful technique to get more yield and fill your growing space with little work. Bending the plant will allow smaller buds to get more light and so to grow faster, and when flowering time has come, the plant will show a lot more buds compared to a natural growth.
Bend the plant with lots of care, it would be very sad to break the stem or branches !! Use a stick with a plastic or cotton string (or other material that can't mold easily). Bend the plant gently and tight it to the stick. After a few hours, the apex should face the sun again, with the greater surface of the plant receiving light.
You can use anything you find to train your plant, just make sure it will not bring mold. One of my favourite tools to train young plants is to use a tent peg ! When plants get bigger, you can use sticks, rope, fence....
High Stress Training (HST) : These techniques harm the plant in order to strongly break the apical dominance. Yield is greatly improved, but plants usually need more time to recover from the wound.
Topping the apex :
If you cut the top bud, the plant will give energy to side buds, and start to grow wide ; perfect to fill your space and get multiple main buds. You can do this technique as soon as the plant has 3 nodes, but usually best results happen when the plant has 4 or 5 nodes.
This simple technique ends up with 2 stems and a lower height of the plant. You can repeat the cut as many times as you want, each time dividing in 2 each apex.
Each time you cut an apex, plants take a few days to recover, so it's better to have it in mind if you lack time. Also, some strains will positively respond to topping and will grow faster, while others hate it and will take ages before starting to grow again. Check the breeder information about your strain.
FIM (Fuck I missed) :
This technique is similar to topping, but the chances of success are uncertain. It is called “Fuck I missed” because it is what can hapen when you fail the topping technique.
Cut the apex the exact same way you would do when topping, but do it just above the topping point, in order to keep 1 or 2 mm of the apex. Use your nails or sharp scissors to cut properly.
if it works, you will have 4 main buds instead of just 2. In the best case you can have 6 new apexes !!! But if it doesn't work, well, nothing happens, you lose 1 or 2 days of growth and the plant continues to grow normally.
Topping and FIMing techniques break the apical dominance of the main buds, the hormone that pushes to grow is then spread to all other buds.
To give maximum light to buds, you can remove bigger leaves. It can really improve the yield, but if done wrong, then it's the opposite. To minimise risk, remove only what you're sure will bother the growth of buds and what seems really useless at the bottom of the plant.
Otherwise, the technique consists in removing most of the big leaves attached to the trunk. Bottom big leaves take energy to the plant more than they produce, and upper big leaves create a big shadow to bud underneath.
Besides optimizing light, this pruning gives a better air flow around buds and prevents mold.
Main Lining (ML) or mani-fold :
An amazing way to improve yield, having homogenous canopy with simple manipulations.
When a plant has 4 or 5 nodes, cut just above the third node , you will get 2 apex (and you can make a cutting). Remove all the little sprouts underneath. Train gently the 2 new stems and when the second node appears, top it again. Repeat as much as you have space. Train gently all branches to spread light evenly.
The goal is to create a symmetrical structure of the trunk, that way, all main buds receive the same energy from the roots. Magically, all main cola will grow big and similar.
Super Cropping :
Super cropping is delicate to achieve, but can be a good compromise between topping, pinching or bending the stem. It's useful also to control the height of a plant without having to cut branches.
Pinch and bend the branch until the bark becomes weak enough to bend at 90° angle. Be gentle enough not to break too much the stem and that the apex becomes upside-down. Be firm enough to actually bend the branch sufficiently that it doesn't heal itself too fast and get vertical again.
The plant will respond by repairing the wound, and growth energy will be redistributed to lower branches. Finally, the wound will heal, leaving the branch stronger ready to hold heavy buds.
The main risk is to break the branch, also, it really depends on your strain because some are very easy to break (sativa) while some others can be very strong and impossible to bend without breaking (some indica).
Screen Of Green (SCROG) :
This technique is very impressive when done properly because the flowering space is literally full of big buds, all having the same size. The vegetative phase is pretty long but you will have only 1 or 2 plants (hardly more) in the flowering room.
This technique is one that requires most experience and quite a lot of maintenance. The purpose is to stitch branches along a mesh or a wire fence, keeping it flat. When the flowering period arrives, stretch has to be very well managed to keep balance between all branches.
It's possible to use anything to stitch plants around, a coton mesh or a wire fence are usually used. Make sure the size fits perfectly to your flowering room.
While in vegetative phase, simply stitch branches, trying to fill up the mesh as well balanced as possible. When the space is 2/3 or 3/4 covered, it's time to switch the lamp cycle to initiate the flowering phase. Remove all the sprouts that are under the screen, and cut weak branches, the idea is to keep only stronger buds on top of the net, and not too many otherwise they will not fatten properly...
During the stretch, almost daily you should stitch branches and keep everything balanced. When buds start to form (around F+15) all bets are done !!
Maintain a good air flow above and under the screen to avoid mold, and good luck, first timers rarely succeed with this technique that is one of the most technical to achieve.
Sea of Green (SOG) :
It is not a training technique but a way to grow that permits high yield. The flowering room is filled with as many square pots as possible, all having a size around 2 to 4 liters. Clones or seeds (from the same strain) are distributed in all pots and vegetative phase is very short if there is any...
All lower leaves and buds are removed to promote the growth of the higher one. If done properly, the yield per meter square can be really good, for a super short cycle of life
The result is very similar to SCROG, but with as many plants as there are main buds.
Small flowering room :
If your flowering room is small, you will have to choose a training technique, especially if you want to have more than one plant.
Easiest technique would be to cut once (or twice or more) the apex and the plant will grow wider. It's nice to combine topping technique with bending, it allows you to really fill the whole space you have for a better yield.
In other words, the main lining technique fits perfectly to small spaces.
A more complicated technique, but very efficient is to make a SCROG. (see above)