Tips and Tricks: Growing Hemp with SCROG

Hemp, a plant with a myriad of uses ranging from textiles to health products, has gained significant attention in recent years due to its sustainability and economic value. 

One such technique, which has revolutionized the way we approach hemp cultivation, is the SCROG method. SCROG, short for Screen of Green, is an innovative approach that optimizes space and maximizes light exposure to your plants. This method not only enhances the yield but also improves the overall quality of the hemp. 

What is SCROG?

In traditional hemp cultivation, plants are allowed to grow freely, which often leads to uneven light distribution and space utilization. SCROG is a cultivation technique that involves using a horizontal screen or netting to guide and manage the growth of plants. The primary goal of this method is to ensure that each plant receives an equal amount of light, leading to more uniform growth and higher yields. The process involves carefully weaving the branches of the hemp plants through a screen placed above them, encouraging them to grow horizontally rather than vertically. This method maximizes the plant's exposure to light, especially in indoor growing setups where light distribution can be a significant challenge.

The SCROG technique has its roots in the early days of indoor cannabis cultivation, where growers sought ways to maximize yields in limited spaces with restricted light sources. Over time, the technique has been refined and adapted for various types of plants, including hemp. The SCROG method is particularly effective for hemp due to the plant's natural growth patterns and the dense foliage it develops.

In comparison to other advanced techniques like SOG (Sea of Green) or hydroponics, SCROG is less resource-intensive and easier to manage, especially for beginners. It does not require a large number of plants to be effective and is more adaptable to different growing environments, whether it's a small indoor setup or a larger greenhouse.

a photo of cannabis under a net trellis

Benefits of Using SCROG for Hemp Cultivation

Optimal Light Distribution and Space Utilization

One of the primary advantages of the SCROG method is its ability to optimize light distribution. By training hemp plants to grow horizontally across a screen, each part of the plant receives equal exposure to light. This is particularly beneficial in indoor setups where light sources are fixed. Efficient light distribution ensures that lower buds develop as fully as the top ones, leading to a more uniform and productive growth.

In addition to improved light exposure, SCROG is an excellent technique for maximizing space efficiency. Especially in limited spaces, vertical growth can be a significant constraint. SCROG allows plants to spread out horizontally, making the most of the available area. This horizontal spread also facilitates better air circulation around the plants, which is crucial for maintaining plant health and preventing issues like mold and pest infestations.

Higher Yields and Better Quality Hemp

Ensuring that each part of the plant receives adequate light and air, SCROG can significantly increase the yield per plant. The even canopy created by this method allows for more buds to develop fully, which translates to a higher total yield. Additionally, the SCROG method can lead to an improvement in the quality of hemp. Consistent light exposure and airflow contribute to the development of denser, more resinous buds, which are often sought after in the hemp market.

Environmental Benefits

SCROG is not just beneficial for yield and quality; it also has environmental advantages. By optimizing the use of space and light, SCROG can lead to more efficient energy use, especially in indoor growing setups. This efficiency is crucial in reducing the ecological footprint of hemp cultivation. Moreover, the SCROG method can be combined with organic growing practices to create a more sustainable and environmentally friendly cultivation process.

Setting Up Your SCROG

Embarking on your SCROG journey requires a bit of preparation and understanding of the setup process. Here, we'll guide you through setting up your SCROG system, detailing the equipment needed and providing tips for a successful start.

Equipment and Tools Needed

Before you begin, it's essential to gather all the necessary equipment. Here's a basic list:

  1. Screen or Netting: The core of the SCROG system. Choose a screen with appropriate hole sizes (usually 2-4 inches) to allow easy weaving of the plant branches.
  2. Support Structure: Sturdy frames or poles to hold the screen at the desired height above the plants.
  3. Plant Containers: Ensure they are large enough to support the growth of your hemp plants.
  4. Grow Lights (for indoor setups): Choose lights suitable for hemp cultivation, ensuring they provide adequate coverage over your SCROG area.
  5. Basic Gardening Tools: Pruners for trimming and training the plants, ties or soft wires for securing branches, and gardening gloves.
  6. Soil and Nutrients: Depending on your cultivation approach, prepare the appropriate soil mix and nutrients for hemp.

Initial Setup

  1. Install the Support Structure: Position the frame or poles in your growing area, ensuring they are stable and at the correct height. Typically, the screen should be placed 20-30 inches above the base of the plants.

  2. Attach the Screen: Securely fasten the screen to the support structure. Ensure it's taut and evenly spaced to facilitate easy plant training.

  3. Plant Positioning: Arrange your hemp plants beneath the screen, spacing them out to allow for horizontal growth. The distance between plants will depend on the expected growth size and the size of your screen's holes.

  4. Lighting Setup (Indoor): Position your grow lights to ensure even coverage across the entire SCROG area. Adjust the height of the lights as needed, based on the growth stage of the plants.

  5. Initial Training: Once your plants reach a sufficient height (usually when they're about 10-15 inches tall), start weaving the branches gently through the screen holes. This encourages horizontal growth and begins the SCROG process.

Tips for the Initial Setup Phase

  • Consistent Monitoring: Regularly check the tension of the screen and the stability of the support structure.
  • Gentle Handling: Be careful when weaving branches to avoid damaging the plants.
  • Adjust as Needed: Be prepared to adjust the height of the screen or the position of the lights as your plants grow.
  • Adequate Watering and Nutrition: Ensure your plants are well-watered and receive the necessary nutrients, especially during the early stages of SCROG.
a photo of cannabis on netting

Growing Hemp with SCROG

Now that your SCROG setup is ready, it's time to focus on the actual cultivation process. Growing hemp with SCROG involves specific steps and care practices to ensure healthy growth and optimal yield. Let's break down these steps for a successful SCROG cultivation journey.

Planting and Early Growth

  1. Planting: Start with quality hemp seeds or clones. Plant them in your prepared containers filled with nutrient-rich soil. Ensure the initial conditions (light, temperature, humidity) are ideal for hemp germination and growth.
  2. Vegetative Stage: During this stage, your hemp plants will focus on leaf and stem growth. Provide 18-24 hours of light daily if you're growing indoors. Regularly water your plants, but avoid overwatering.
  3. Training the Plants: As your plants grow taller and reach the screen, gently weave the branches and stems through the screen's holes. The aim is to create a flat, even canopy across the screen. This process encourages the plants to grow horizontally, maximizing light exposure to all parts of the plant.

Watering, Lighting, and Nutrient Requirements

  1. Watering: Hemp plants in a SCROG setup require consistent watering. However, be cautious of overwatering as it can lead to root issues and nutrient uptake problems.
  2. Lighting: In the vegetative stage, provide ample light (preferably full-spectrum LED or MH lights). As you transition to the flowering stage, reduce the light to 12 hours a day to encourage blooming.
  3. Nutrients: Start with a nitrogen-rich fertilizer during the vegetative stage and switch to a phosphorus and potassium-rich fertilizer during the flowering stage. Always follow the recommended dosages and be mindful of signs of nutrient deficiencies or excess.

Managing Plant Growth and Weaving Process

  1. Weaving and Pruning: Continuously weave new growth through the screen. This may require daily attention as hemp plants can grow rapidly. Prune any unnecessary foliage beneath the screen to redirect the plant's energy to the top canopy.
  2. Maintaining an Even Canopy: Regularly adjust the branches to maintain an even canopy. This ensures that all buds receive equal light, leading to a uniform development.
  3. Monitoring Plant Health: Keep an eye out for signs of stress, pests, or diseases. Address any issues promptly to prevent them from affecting the overall health of your plants.

Transition to Flowering Stage

  1. Inducing Flowering: Reduce the light cycle to 12 hours of light and 12 hours of darkness to trigger the flowering stage. This is critical for hemp plants to start developing buds.
  2. Continued Care: Even in the flowering stage, continue to weave and manage the canopy. However, be more gentle as the stems become less flexible and the buds start to form.

Common Challenges and Solutions in SCROG Cultivation

While SCROG (Screen of Green) is an effective method for growing hemp, like any cultivation technique, it comes with its own set of challenges. Understanding these challenges and knowing how to address them is key to maintaining a healthy SCROG garden. Let’s explore some common issues and their solutions.

Challenge 1: Uneven Canopy Development

Problem: One of the primary goals of SCROG is to create an even canopy, but sometimes certain plants or branches grow faster than others, leading to an uneven canopy.

Solution: Regularly prune and train your plants. Trim the taller branches and weave the growing tips horizontally through the screen to encourage lateral growth. Adjust the height of the screen if necessary to accommodate different plant heights.

Challenge 2: Overcrowding Under the Screen

Problem: As plants grow, the area beneath the screen can become overcrowded with foliage, which can lead to poor air circulation and pest problems.

Solution: Practice regular pruning to remove unnecessary leaves and branches beneath the screen. This not only improves air circulation but also ensures that the plant focuses its energy on the upper canopy.

Challenge 3: Nutrient Management Issues

Problem: Providing the right balance of nutrients can be tricky, especially when plants are densely packed in a SCROG setup.

Solution: Monitor your plants closely for signs of nutrient deficiencies or excesses. Adjust your feeding schedule and composition accordingly. It’s often beneficial to use a slightly diluted nutrient solution to prevent overfeeding.

Challenge 4: Managing Light Distribution

Problem: Even with SCROG, there can be issues with light distribution, especially in larger setups or with uneven plant growth.

Solution: Ensure that your grow lights are evenly distributed above the canopy. Consider using additional side lighting if necessary. Regularly adjust the position of the lights as the plants grow to maintain optimal light exposure.

Challenge 5: Pest and Disease Control

Problem: Dense canopies can sometimes create microclimates that are conducive to pests and diseases.

Solution: Maintain good air circulation by using fans and keeping the under-canopy area clean. Regularly inspect your plants for signs of pests or diseases and treat them promptly with appropriate organic or chemical controls.

Challenge 6: Difficulty in Accessing Plants

Problem: Once the plants are established in a SCROG setup, accessing individual plants for care and maintenance can be difficult.

Solution: Design your SCROG setup with accessibility in mind. Leave enough space between rows or consider a movable screen system for easy access.

Harvesting and Post-Harvest Care in SCROG Cultivation

After investing time and care in your SCROG setup, the moment of harvesting your hemp plants finally arrives. This stage is as crucial as the growing phase, as proper harvesting and post-harvest handling significantly impact the quality of your yield. Let's go through the steps and considerations for a successful harvest.

Timing the Harvest

  1. Observing Plant Maturity: The key to a successful harvest is timing. For hemp, this usually means waiting until the trichomes (tiny crystal-like structures on the buds) are fully developed. They typically shift from clear to a milky or amber color when the plants are ready.
  2. Whole Plant vs. Sectional Harvesting: In SCROG, plants tend to mature uniformly due to the even light distribution. However, you might find that some sections mature faster. Decide whether to harvest the whole plant at once or in sections.

Harvesting Process

  1. Removing the Screen: Carefully remove or lift the screen to access the plants. This might require cutting some branches that are heavily woven into the screen.
  2. Cutting the Plants: Use sharp, clean pruning shears to cut the plants. You can either cut whole branches or individual colas, depending on your preference and the maturity of different sections.
  3. Handling with Care: Handle the plants gently during the harvesting process to preserve the trichomes and the overall quality of the buds.

Post-Harvest Care

  1. Trimming: Trim away excess leaves and stems. This can be done either before or after drying, depending on your preference. Wet trimming (before drying) is often easier, but dry trimming (after drying) can help preserve the aroma and quality of the buds.
  2. Drying: Hang the trimmed branches in a controlled environment with good air circulation, low humidity, and darkness. The ideal drying process is slow and steady, usually taking about a week.
  3. Curing: Once dried, cure the buds by placing them in airtight containers. Open the containers periodically to let fresh air in and release any excess moisture. This curing process enhances the potency, aroma, and flavor of the hemp.

Tips for a Successful Harvest

  • Be Patient: Don’t rush the harvest. Wait until the plants have fully matured for the best quality yield.
  • Monitor Moisture Levels: During drying and curing, keep an eye on humidity levels to prevent mold growth.
  • Label and Organize: If you’re harvesting in sections, label the batches to keep track of the different stages and qualities.

Additional Resources and References

While this guide has provided a comprehensive overview, there's always more to learn. Below, we list some valuable resources and references that can deepen your understanding and enhance your SCROG cultivation journey.

Books and E-books

  1. "The Cannabis Grow Bible" by Greg Green: This book is a comprehensive guide to growing cannabis, including sections on advanced techniques like SCROG.
  2. "Marijuana Horticulture: The Indoor/Outdoor Medical Grower's Bible" by Jorge Cervantes: A detailed resource covering all aspects of cultivation, with insights applicable to hemp growers.
  3. "Organic Marijuana, Soma Style: The Pleasures of Cultivating Connoisseur Cannabis" by Soma: For those interested in organic cultivation methods in line with SCROG.

Online Forums and Communities

  1. Growers Network: A community of professional and amateur growers where you can find discussions on SCROG and other cultivation techniques.

  2. 420 Magazine Forum: Offers a wealth of information with grow journals, advice, and discussions about SCROG and hemp cultivation.

  3. Reddit’s r/microgrowery and r/hemp: These subreddits are a good place for tips, advice, and sharing experiences with like-minded growers.

  4. Offers a variety of services and products related to marijuana growing, including guides, tips, and advice for both beginners and experienced growers. Often features forums or communities where individuals can share experiences, ask questions, and discuss various aspects of marijuana cultivation.

  5. GrowDiaries: Is a distinctive online platform tailored for meticulously documenting and tracking cannabis growing practices.

    Every cultivation experience is a learning opportunity. Don’t be afraid to experiment and adjust your techniques based on your specific conditions and the behavior of your plants. The world of hemp cultivation is dynamic and ever-evolving, and so should be your approach.

    We hope this guide has provided you with valuable information and inspired you to explore the benefits of SCROG cultivation. Happy growing, and may your hemp crops flourish under your care and expertise!

    Leave a comment

    All comments are moderated before being published