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I usually top my seedlings early and encourage the first 2 laterals to catch up therefore making a plant with 4 strong leaders. By the time I hit flower Ive got close to 10 more laterals reaching up from the center and the sides which also become crowns. My buddy tried to explain a pruning method which im not sure I fully understood; he said he pruned out every lateral that would become a crown and left only his 4 main leaders. He basically was saying he got 4 very long and very dense crowns instead of 10 smaller crowns.
If you had four tall colas spread out your going to be wasting a lot of potential canopy. Pack them in as tight as possible to absorb as much light as possible. Depends on the plant for pruning style (natural/untopped, lst, sog, scrogg etc) but its always best to use as much of the light at the canopy level as possible.
For mine, I stick with Grapegod because I like the structure of the plant, has nice open structure for good airflow. I top them a few times and bend over branches before putting them into flower.
Then 2-3 weeks in I trim all the small underbrush that has shown excessive stretching. Sometimes the top/flower area gets some of the branches out of the way for the greater good, but for the most part I leave anything that can get light and looks like it wont larf out with squagly little buds.
Here's an example of how I do it in veg.
Day 12: Topped early to branch out as low as possible.
Day 14: I let the top heal over before transplanting
Day 22: Truckin along and stretching, good for the next phase of LST, bending them over.
Day 27: topped 1-2 times by now
Day 31: Bending over and topping any dominant branches that are too far ahead of the rest.
Day 34: They spring back to life
Day 41: Getting bushy, all that lower stuff will go, usually trimmed as it gets thrown into flower, then again 2-3 weeks into veg once the lower stuff shows its vigor.
Flower day 1: Loaded into the flower tent and bent back/weaved into the tomato cages and trimming only lower branches, sometimes I don't trim too much to get a feel for how the plant responds. I've got it down after a few cycles with the Grapegod.
Flower day 8: These were not trimmed very much going in. This crop was a little too stretched out so I left more lower stuff to compensate.
Flower day 28: Some primary branches actually got lost due to excessive bending (accidentally) when moving to the flower tent and trying to weave it into the tomato cages. You can kind of tell the left side is shorter and not as dense. It was about a third of the plant that was lost. I left the surrounding plants bushy to fill the void. This is my current crop, not the one associated with the photo's above, but the theory is there.
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Sometimes I enjoy mega pruning just for the art of it and seeing what a beast I can make out of a single plant. Its fun to make a hundred headed hydra with bulging muscular stems sometimes... especially outdoors where deep light penetration isn't as much of an issue... A lot of the newer strains I've been seeing are so bushy, I don't need to prune like I used to with some of my lankier girls... well actually this chem dog I have is so gangley if I don't prune her, she's this tall lanky stick that can't even stand anymore. I prune the hell out of that from birth onward. Whereas, this Northern Lights from Nirvana is so perfectly compact and branchy, there's really no need to touch it at all I'd say guaging your genetics could be a factor
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