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If your initial reaction to seeing this question posed is something to the effect of “how long is a piece of string” then you are barking up the right tree (or cannabis plant, in this instance).
Yields from cannabis plants, as with every crop from fruits to vegetables to wheat, will vary and fluctuate depending on various factors and circumstances.
Understanding these different factors and inputs is key to maximizing your bud bounty when it comes time to harvest.
The major factors impacting cannabis plant yields include exposure to light, water, and nutrients, the size of the grow space, the number of plants in that grow space, the grow method, indoor vs outdoor grow, training (or lack thereof), the strain of the plant, and a good deal more (pun most assuredly intended).
Obviously with the changing legal status of cannabis throughout the US in recent years, there has been an explosion of professional, commercial grow operations that have moved the science and understanding of growing cannabis plants onto a new level.
For this article, however, we will focus on home or “hobby” grows.
Yields From Weed Plants Grown Outdoors
Given that the vast majority of home growers grow their cannabis indoors it is probably best to address this question early on and get it out of the way.
Plants grown outdoors, organic or not, will typically grow larger than indoor plants due to them not suffering from any space restrictions.
The general consensus is that outdoor plants will produce on average around half a pound (227g) of smokable buds. Which is approximately twice the amount of bud one can expect to harvest from an indoor plant.
Despite yielding just half as much as outdoor plants, most people still opt to grow indoors.
This is because growing indoors allows for much greater control of the growing environment and greatly reduces the risk of a crop failing altogether.
Believe me, there is nothing more heartbreaking than investing days and weeks of love and labor into growing a cannabis crop only to see it devastated by a freak change in weather conditions or an invasion by some pesky bugs, pests, or other critters.
Growing outdoors also requires that you have the land, space, and climatic conditions to allow the plants to grow to their maximum potential.
Few people are lucky enough to be in the right place with the right space to make growing outdoors a viable option.
Hydroponics Vs Soil
You’ve decided to grow your own cannabis plants and the grow will be done indoors. Your next decision is whether to opt to grow cannabis the plants in soil, au naturel, or in a hydroponic grow system.
Hydro homies and soil soldiers aren’t exactly like warring religious sects but were the comparison to be made it wouldn’t be entirely spurious. Adherents of each will adamantly claim that theirs is the better method.
As a matter of fact, in hydroponic grow systems, be it for cannabis or any other type of crop, plants will grow quicker and produce a greater yield than soil-based plants.
This is due to a faster uptake of nutrients in hydroponically grown plants than those grown in soil, and because, more often than not, hydroponic systems allow for a greater number of plants to be grown optimally in a given grow space.
These aren’t the only considerations one should contemplate when deciding on hydroponic vs soil grows.
Hydroponic grow systems are more expensive than growing in soil, they require more intense labor and monitoring, and a higher level of expertise to succeed.
As such, novice growers might be well advised to embark on their cannabis growing journey with a soil grow rather than a more complex hydroponic set-up.
Growing in different mediums can also affect the taste of the final product. If your sole or primary concern is around ensuring the greatest yield, then you should opt for a hydroponic grow system.
Regardless of which method you ultimately decide to adopt, there are universal factors that will go a long way to determine how a plant will grow, and in the case of weed plants, how much of the glorious sticky icky it will produce.
The first of these is…
Light is incredibly important when it comes to the yield one can expect from an individual cannabis plant.
It almost feels silly to write that – ‘plants need light and water, duh…’ but there is much more to achieving optimal plant growth and flower yield than simply blasting your plant with as much light as you can muster.
Too much light can lead to leaf burn and cause other stresses to the plant which could, in the worst scenarios, kill the plant altogether.
Providing you have a good set-up, however, the light you use can be utilized as one of the more accurate predictors of the final yield you might expect.
As a general rule of thumb, one should expect to yield about 0.5g of dried, cured bud per watt of light. So, a 1000w light will normally produce around 500g of dried, finished, smokable nuggets.
Frequent the many 420-friendly sites and weed-growing forums online and you will see that many people contend that typical yields of 1g per watt should be the target figure.
Highly refined and tested grow operations can yield 1g per watt of light and above, so that same 1000w bulb we mentioned a moment ago would end up producing 1kg of divine funkalicious, or perhaps even more.
Achieving those sorts of yields in simple home set-ups would be ambitious, at least to begin with. But not impossible by any means.
Pruning And Trimming
Hot on the heels of light one must also consider the impact of pruning and trimming when seeking to optimize the final yield.
It does not take a seasoned botanist to understand that if a plant is covered in dead leaves and foliage then it is not going to receive as much light in the right places as it would if it was well maintained.
Regular trimming and pruning of old leaves and coverage are important to the health of a plant in any case, but with respect to yields which parts of the plant are receiving the light are nearly as important as how much light they are receiving.
We’ll look at this in more depth later in the “training” section.
Interestingly enough the size of your grow space can also be used to predict the yield of your crop to a surprisingly accurate degree.
In fact, there are now free grow room calculators available online where you simply enter the dimensions of your grow space, the area of your canopy and the number of plants and “voila” you have a pretty darned accurate forecast of what you can expect to be stuffing into mason jars after you have harvested your crop.
When it comes to these estimates the calculations are usually made in yield per square footage with average yields sitting somewhere around 40g per square foot.
As you are no doubt beginning to comprehend, each and every one of these elements is not only important in its own right when it comes to a crop’s final yield, but how they interact and interplay will also have a significant impact on the final outcome.
In addition to both light and water plants require nutrients to survive and flourish.
In a hydroponic set-up you will deal with nutrients from the start of the growing process. As mentioned earlier it is the water-based nutrients in the hydroponic system that allows for quicker growth and greater yields than soil-grown plants.
If growing in soil, you will not have to worry about involving additional nutrients in the initial stages of growth (specifically the germination stage, typically 1 to 7 days, and the seedling stage, approximately 2-3 weeks) as the soil will provide all the required nutrition for the plant in that time.
Additional nutrients will be required later in both the vegetative stage and the flowering stage and the plant will require different levels of nutrients for each of those respective phases.
NPK (nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium) are the key nutrients in cannabis cultivation, and optimizing the balance between the three in the different phases of growth is paramount to achieving the largest possible yield.
Luckily there are innumerable high-quality products and solutions available, in addition to an abundance of free advice online for all types of cannabis cultivation, and reputable vendors will be more than happy to provide advice as to what would be best for your own particular grow operation.
Learn how to use bloom boosters to improve the yield of your cannabis plants.
Genotype and phenotype matter because the genetics of a plant and its physical expression all have some say in the final end product.
This, personally, is where the rubber meets the road when it comes to maximizing cannabis yields. Everything we’ve addressed so far is important to get right if you want a good yield.
But even if you have the perfect light, for the exact right grow space, with the perfect number of plants all cultivated and cared for by the love child of Mark Watney and Tommy Chong… nothing can increase the potential yield of a single cannabis plant more than by properly training it.
There is a wide variety of different training methods to explore and if you love growing weed this is something you just have to expose yourself to. Let’s take a look at some of the more popular training methods.
Perhaps the simplest method of training a cannabis plant is by topping it.
This is where you cut the top off the main stem of the plant which would normally produce a single large cola, to encourage the growth of the bud sites underneath and thereby producing 2-4 main, large colas rather than just one.
Because you are effectively amputating, or even decapitating the plant, topping is considered a high-stress technique (HST) which can lead to a slower rate of growth in some cases or even worse… related to topping is FIM (Fuck I missed) which is essentially the same thing but leaves more of the stem behind as a means to encouraging a greater number of colas.
Another very popular form of HST training is super-cropping. This is where the weed farmer deliberately bends and breaks (though does not snap) the branches of the weed plant to optimize the exposure to light of all the major bud sites.
When done properly, super-cropping can achieve a significant increase in final yields when compared to plants simply left to their own devices to grow naturally.
In effect, you are training the branches to grow sideways, rather than up, which ensures that every bud site will be exposed to much more light than would have otherwise been the case.
Some people choose to avoid HST methods entirely. After all, who wants to cause stress for the ones that they love? But super-cropping is a truly tried and tested method of significantly increasing yields in cannabis production.
For those adamant they would never put their beautiful plants to the sword, there are alternatives, such as…
Low Stress Training (LST)
Low-stress training is essentially doing the same as super-cropping, but instead of bending and breaking the branches so that they heal in such a way as to maximize the exposure to light of major bud sites, LST instead bends and then ties the branches in place.
Some growers will opt for a combination of both LST and super-cropping, typically starting with LST and then employing some minor-super-cropping to cater to certain issues around space availability or light exposure.
Once you start your own journey as a cannabis farmer you will come to appreciate that cultivating cannabis is as much an art as it is a science.
Screen Of Green
Screen of Green (SCROG) is a more advanced method of training based on the principles of LST.
Once again you are seeking to effectively have the branches grow sideways to optimize the growth of every bud site in the canopy.
This is done by placing a wire (or plastic or metal) screen or grid over a young plant and, once it has grown through the grid, it is tied down through another hole to once again encourage horizontal growth.
SCORG is an increasingly popular method of enhancing final crop yields with home or hobby growers due to its low cost and relative ease of application.
In addition to those already mentioned there are other plant training techniques including Sea of Green (not to be confused with SCROG), lollipopping, crimping, and mainlining to name but a few.
Typically growers will experiment by combining these different techniques in various ways and to different extents in order to establish exactly the best method for optimizing yields within their own particular grow set-up.
This is where we come full circle when seeking to answer the question of how much weed a single cannabis plant can generate because it is a “piece of string” situation. And that is what makes cannabis cultivation so fascinating.
One can get lost “in the weed(s)” on this subject due to the sheer amount of variety and difference of opinion when it comes to growing the Mary-Jane. This, again, is part of the pleasure.
Despite being a weed, cannabis plants can be very sensitive little souls, and just a brief time with sub-optimal temperatures, lighting, feeding, or watering can have significant detrimental effects weeks or months down the line.
Growing cannabis can be highly rewarding, and not just in terms of producing great bud to smoke or even financial profits.
A love of the process and a continuing passion to learn and improve will go a long way to pushing the expected yield figure higher (pun again intended).
How much weed might one expect to be produced by a single cannabis plant?
I don’t know… how good are you?
I’m an avid gardener and cannabis enthusiast. You can usually find me in my garden caring for my plants or at my computer crafting helpful blogs for my readers.