With cannabis laws becoming increasingly relaxed worldwide, growers have come up with some very clever tricks for making the most out of limited space and time and one of the best ways to achieve high yields in a shorter time frame is the “sea of green” (SOG) method. In a nutshell, the SOG method involves growing many smaller marijuana plants densely packed together in a grow space with a short vegetative phase of only a couple of weeks (usually 10-14 days), thus producing a jungle-like canopy (i.e. the ‘sea’) once they reach the flowering phase, hence the name. This method allows the grower to have faster and more frequent harvests.
What does sea of green growing mean?
The main idea behind the sea of green method is to have lots of small plants located in close proximity to each other with a short vegetative periods. Although the yield from each plant individually won't be enormous, the goal is to have lots of small-medium sized plants that together make up a large yield in a shorter time frame.
How does SOG work?
Since plants planted too closely together will compete for root space, which you want to avoid, they need to be placed in separate containers. This of course depends on the surface area of your grow space, but square-shaped pots 4-6 quarts (4-6 litres) in size are the most common among experienced SOG growers. Their shape allows you to easily arrange several of them neatly in tight spaces and their volume will keep them from getting too tall (remember that pot sizes have a proportionate effect on yields). Ideally plants should be spaced at 1-2 per square foot (30 x 30 cm).
There are two ways of setting up a SOG garden, either from seed or using clones. If using clones, this means you will have to have a mother plant already in the vegetative phase to take cuttings from. This method will allow you to have uniform plants for your garden, though not everyone has easy access to mother plants or clones. The alternative to clones is to start growing from seed. Once you have picked a method and plants have just about finished the seedling stage, it is time to decide on how long you want to keep them in the vegetative stage. Different growers will have different opinions on when to flip the light cycle to 12 hours of light/12 hours of darkness, with some flipping to flowering immediately after seedlings develop true leaves, while others wait up to two weeks for roots to stabilizes (especially in the case of clones).
Once the light cycle is at 12/12, plants will start to grow outward as well as upward, however since there is little lateral space available, pruning becomes a necessary evil. The goal is to have one cola that will become the main bloom of the plant, sideward-growing branches need to be removed. This will focus all of the plant’s energy toward bud production, which also means that there will be less trimming to be done around harvest time. During the flowering phase, plants will require regular attention more than with other methods making it a little more labor intensive than usual, however the SOG method considerably speeds up the whole process, so you end up saving a good amount of time. Once your crop has finished flowering and you decide to give your plants the chop, you can get started on the next crop right away, making the SOG method particularly attractive to commercial growers.
Does sea of green method yield more?
Since the vegetation period in the sea of green method is very short, plants do not have a whole lot of time to gain height and will naturally be much shorter than if using traditional growing methods. However, sea of green growing is a numbers game and the accumulative yield from each plant will be big. Because you prioritize the flowering stage over the vegetative stage your garden will consist of more bulky colas with not much foliage. This means that yields will be heavier as well, and when done on high yielding plants such as Big Bud the results can be even more fruitful.
Can you use the sea of green method with autoflowers?
Autoflowers have an internal clock that tells them when to start flowering, meaning that you cannot force them into the flowering stage with a 12/12 light schedule. Generally speaking autoflowering varieties will start to flower after about 4 weeks from seed and since SOG growers aim to shorten the vegetative phase artificially, autoflowers aren’t best suited for this technique. However, it is still possible to grow autoflowers using the sea of green method. With smaller pots, autoflowers will also be smaller in size with less lateral branching, whereas photoperiod cannabis plants grow much taller due to their long vegetative periods, so fast-flowering pure indicas or indica-dominant strains will be better suited for SOG grows.
SOG vs LST – which is best for your grow?
Brief comparison of the 2 methods explaining pros and cons of each and what kind of grower each method might be best suited to.
Low-stress training (LST) is also a very popular technique used for increasing yields in cannabis and can be done in any type of setup apart from SOG. The idea is to keep plant height low by gently bending branches so as to develop a level canopy and expose multiple bud sites. So how does it compare to the SOG grow overall? Let’s have a look at the pros and cons below.
- Easy to learn and implement.
- Increases yields and produces bigger buds.
- Does not involve topping, cutting, or any other stressful technique that could delay growth
- Works very well on autoflowers.
- Requires a lot of attention to plants.
- Very labor intensive if your plant count is high.
- You run the risk of damaging stems if not careful.
- Significantly increases yields over same grow areas.
- Can produce several harvests per year.
- Does not require much vertical space and gardens can be layered.
- Heavy and frequent yields are ideal for commercial growers.
- Becomes very labor-intensive with large number of plants.
- Diseases and pests can spread quickly due to plant density.
- It can be difficult to combine indicas and sativas so variety options are limited.
- Watering and feeding can be tricky because plants are tightly compacted into a small space.
Depending on your growing conditions, experience and overall aims, it is worth considering the SOG method as the results can be very satisfying. LST can be applied in nearly any situation and can be hard to screw up, but if you can learn the sea of green method quickly, the end result will be highly rewarding.
What strains are best for SOG grows?
There are plenty of available varieties that are ideally suited for SOG grows, the biggest problem being what to choose. Below are a few of our suggestions.
Gelato Fast-Flowering – An unbelievably short flowering time (6-8 weeks), a high THC content (20-24%) and a yield of 500-600gr/m2 are what makes this strain so popular among SOG growers. Gelato fast flowering is a well-balanced hybrid that combines the pastry-like aromas of indicas with the fruity taste of traditional sativa strains and its effects are equally well-balanced, making it a great choice for both daytime and night-time use. SOG growers will be able to get those dense, thick buds in an even shorter amount of time while also getting an exciting palate of flavors and aromas at the same time.
Critical – A variety that has been bred to produce commercial (i.e. very high) yields, Critical has become a legendary variety sought after by many growers, especially for sea of green. This is a classic indica-dominant strain with a flowering time of 8-10 weeks and an impressive yield of over 600gr/m2. Though the THC content falls in the midrange at around 16-19%, its well-balanced fruity flavor and citrusy terpene profile combined with skunky undertones provide for some highly pleasing effects. Critical grows well in most conditions making it a very good choice for beginner SOG growers.
Super Lemon Haze – This sativa-dominant strain has an unusually high yield with an average of over 600gr/m2 and a flowering time of 8-10 weeks, which is more resemblant of indica types, however its citrusy terpene profile and typically sativa effects are one of the reasons it has received multiple Cannabis Cup awards throughout the years. Great for daytime use with plenty of medical uses to boot. In addition to getting bulky buds, Super Lemon Haze will work wonders for stress, depression and anxiety. No wonder this is the go-to sativa for SOG growers.
The sea of green method, while sounding complicated and tricky to pull off, is not as difficult as it seems. With the right planning, care and execution, this just might become you’re favorite technique for growing some amazing cannabis. Happy SOG-ing!