Main-Lining is just a concept about building a plant off a single node. You don't have to get everything perfect to reap huge benefits. Many growers do main-lining their own way, and still get the rewards as long as they build their hub / manifold off a single node.
Main-Lining is an incredibly powerful way to gain complete control over your plants in small spaces, and also gives outdoor growers the power to control the size and shape of their plants for more consistent yields.
One of the best things about main-lining is that it's a "front-loaded" process. Most of the work happens right at the beginning of the plant's life, during the first few weeks. After that you mostly get to lay back and reap the benefits
Set Up Your Hub / Manifold In the Early Vegetative Stage
(take a few weeks at most, when starting from seed)
Step 1: Wait until marijuana plant has 5-6 total nodes
I believe the optimal time to start main-lining a healthy marijuana seedling is when she has 5-6 total nodes. Wait a little longer if you feel the plant is not growing fast and healthy.
Step 2: Top plant down to 3rd node (cut stem above 3rd set of leaves)
Cutting off the top of your plant is a technique known as "topping." So a common way you'll hear marijuana growers give these instructions is to say to "top your plant down to the 3rd node."
After this step, your original plant should have just 3 nodes in total.
Step 2b: Remove all growth below the 3rd node
Remove all the growth, including cotyledons and fan leaves, below the 3rd node.
This third node will become the center of your main-lining manifold, and by removing all other growth, you are telling the plant to send all energy and effort to developing just that node.
Therefor the purpose of this step is to leave just the two stems/growth tips coming from the 3rd node, so that the roots only have to bring energy to this one hub / manifold. This will allow you plant to distribute energy evenly to all parts of the plant.
The 3rd node is going to become your manifold / hub, so with this step, you "tell" the plant to put energy only into the two growth tips on the 3rd node. Once the other growth tips are removed, the plant will divert all energy into the one node that's remaining.
Your plant should look something like this after this step
Are you worried about taking off too much?
You may want to leave extra fan leaves on the plant for now, including the ones which are directly attached to the 3rd node.
What's most important in this step is removing extra growth tips below the 3rd node.
Leaving extra fan leaves is a big time-saving tactic, especially if your new main node hasn't grown out much, such as in this example below.
Step 2c: Secure 2 new mains at right angles from the ground
Tie down your two new mains gently, so they form a right angle from the ground (or as close as you can).
If you waited until your 5th or 6th node to start-main-lining, you'll probably be able to do this step right away. However, if your 2 mains are too small to tied down, give your plant a couple of days so the new mains can grow out. Once you have enough growth on your mains to safely bend, it's time to start this part of Step 2c.
Each strain grows differently in each setup. Some plants need extra time to grow out new mains. Other plants will already have long enough stems already that you can tie them down directly after the last step.
Some strains respond well to bending and training, others don't. Listen to your intuition. If you do happen to snap/break one of your stems, just tape it back up with duck tape and the plant may be able to heal herself.
I tend to really be a tad rough with my marijuana plants because I'm so familiar with how they grow, and I know when I'm pushing them too hard. If you're ever worried that you're moving too fast, then give plants a day or two between each step so you can see how they will react.
Slow, gentle movements will prevent injusty, while being one of the best ways to learn what your plants like and don't like.
In a stressful environment (such as very hot temperatures, if the plant is young, or if the plant is suffering from a problem/deficiency), it's always better to err on the side of waiting a little bit too long between steps, just to give your plant time to adjust and make sure she will be able to handle the bonding / pruning / training.
This is how Nugbuckets bonds his mains down - to the extreme with thick bendy wire
(these stems will turn back up towards the light in just a day or two)
Secure mains down without cutting into them. This is important!
You can use almost anything to tie down your plant, as long as it isn't thin enough to cut into the "skin" of the plant. Softt gardening wire, coat hangers, or anything relatively thick and bendy will do the job. Avoid string as it will cut into your plant!
Tying down your two mains coming out of the hub will keep your final plant much shorter overall, and this will give your main trunk the signature "main-lined" appearance.
Quick Summary of Step 2
This one full plant in the middle shows the "before". The rest of the plants illustrate the "after" of what your plants should pretty much look like at the end of Step 2
Step 3: Allow plant to start growing vigorously again, then top all main colas symmetrically to double the number of mains
Watch the new colas (mains) you created in the last step.
Wait until plant has started growing fast and healthy. You will know it's time to take Step 3 when you notice your main colas are stretching upwards and growing heathfully.
Some growers wait for each main to grow out a few nodes, while other growers will often cut the plant after seeing just the growth tips fully formed.
Look along the length of your mains for nodes to become your new mains - nodes should be located in the same place on each side of the hub / manifold
On each main, choose a node. The nodes you choose will form the basis of new mains after topping the plant.
The most important aspect of this step is to make sure you choose nodes in the same place on both sides of the plant. This is very important to the efficiency of your hub / manifold.
Try to choose nodes that have symmetrical growth when possible, yet don't worry if you can't - main-lining will work as long as you choose nodes in the same place on both sides of the manifold.
Once you've chosen your nodes, top to that node (cut stem directly above the node).
Make sure you do this in the same place on every main, so every node you cut exactly matches one you're cutting on the other side of the manifold.
Be careful not to damage the growth tips coming out of the node as each one will soon become a new main.
For now, leave the fan leaves directly attached to the new mains. These will power their growth.
All your old mains should now look something like this - notice the two growth tips at the end, which will become new mains.
Each time you top all the mains on a plant, you will double the total number of main colas, so after this step, you will have twice as many mains as you had before.
Step 3b: Remove extra growth tips below your new mains
I will usually do this step directly after the last step. Some growers, especially beginner main-liners, may choose to wait a few days to make sure the plant has responded well to being topped, before removing the other growth tips. There's more room for error that way.
You can choose to leave or remove the fan leaves, I tends to remove all fan leaves except the ones directly attached to the remaining mains.
What is most important is that you remove all growth tips besides your new mains. You want your plant to be putting all her new growing energy into your chosen mains. Every other growth tip just steals energy away from the manifold you are creating.
Step 4: Repeat Step 3 until you have the desired number of colas (keep topping plants until you have 8, 16, or 32 mains)
As I mentioned, each time you top the plant, it doubles the total number of colas. This is because you're essentially splitting a main cola in two with every topping.
So you top a plant once for 2 main colas, top a second time for 4 mains, top a third time for 8 mains, etc.
This chart should help you figure out how many times you want to top your plant in total, and how many colas will be produced.
Indoors: Top 3x get 8 colas
Top 8x get 16 colas
SCROG Top 5x get 32 colas
Outside Top 3-5x Get 8-32 Colas
Growing Indoors: Top 3 times for 8 colas
As a general rule, when growing indoors under grow lights it's best to have 8 total nodes. This means you will top the plant a total of 3 times, including the first time.
Growing Outdoors or in Greenhouse: Top 3-4 or more times for 8-16+ colas
When growing outdoors it's best to have 8-16 total nodes or more to take advantage of the light of the sun and allow your plants to grow into huge bushy monsters. This means you will top the plant a total of 3-4+ times.
Growing Scrog Style: Top 5 times for 32 colas
When growing using the Scrog technique, I prefer to produce 32 total nodes to get the most out of each plant under the Scrog net. This means you will top the plant a total of 5 times.
I only use the Scrog technique when growing a Sativa dominant strain (as these tend to make lots more secondary branching and "fill out" more than Indica-dominant straains). I always allow the plant to have some time to stretch and really fill out under the net before I initiate flowering.
I hope this helped and hope you enjoyed and put this awesome technique to practice. If, you have any questions ask away. thanks Kush
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