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How To Grow Cannabis With Dense Buds

Producing dense, resin-covered buds is every cannabis grower’s dream. Well, don’t let your dreams be dreams—here is all you need to know about growing dense buds of your own, indoors or outdoors.

Contents:

Cannabis is a strong plant capable of surviving extreme conditions. However, this doesn’t mean large, dense yields are guaranteed. Ensuring the correct conditions for optimal growth are maintained should be the main priority for any grower, especially if dense bud is their primary objective.

The most common causes of an underwhelming, airy crop are bad lighting, poor nutrition, overwatering, and extreme temperatures. Letting just one of these factors get out of control—especially towards the end of a plant’s life cycle—can dramatically impact the quality of the bud. We are going to take a look at each in turn, and see how they can be optimised to produce the densest yields possible.

Achieving Dense Buds — Start With the Right Genetics

The first step to growing dense buds is picking the right genetics. Indica-dominant strains, in particular, tend to produce denser, more resinous buds than sativa-dominant varieties. Because sativa strains originate from warmer, more tropical climates, they’ve naturally developed a looser, airier bud structure that helps protect the plants against bud rot and other mould-related issues.

Indica-dominant strains, on the other hand, originate from cooler, drier, mountainous regions with colder climates and shorter summers. As a result, these strains have developed a shorter stature, faster flowering time, and, you guessed it, a tighter bud structure.

When shopping for dense strains, don’t get caught up looking for pure indicas. Today, almost all cannabis strains on the market are poly-hybrids, meaning they’ve been extensively crossbred. Any indica-dominant strain from a respected seed bank (like RQS) should have the dense bud structure you’re looking for.

Choosing the Right Pots

While you can technically grow cannabis in any old pot, some will inherently do a better job at promoting the growth and health of your plants. And healthier plants are obviously going to produce much better (and potentially denser) buds than unhealthy ones.

RQS Geotextile Fabric Pot

For the best results with any grow, we always recommend using Air-Pots or fabric (“Smart”) pots. Unlike regular ceramic or plastic pots, Air/Smart pots promote much better air circulation around your plants’ roots. Not only does this make it easier for your plants to respire, but it helps them develop stronger root systems that grow downward rather than around the pot’s edges. That’s because the open airflow around the edges of the pots trims the roots as they get closer.

Growing Dense Cannabis Buds Outdoors: Garden Beds vs Pots

If you’re lucky enough to be able to grow cannabis outdoors, one of the best ways to encourage dense buds is by planting it directly in the ground or in very big pots (25l or more). Plants grown in smaller pots will gradually run out of soil and space as their roots grow, making it harder for them to take up nutrients and water from the substrate.

Optimising Lighting

It’s no secret that cannabis plants need ample light to conduct key physiological processes that ultimately fatten your buds up. So, what can you do to optimise lighting indoors or out?

Light Intensity

Maintaining optimal light intensity is crucial. The more light buds get, the bigger they grow. Never let your lights get too close or too far from the tops of your plants—too close, and plants risk being burnt by the heat; too far, and the light will not be strong enough to produce satisfactory results.

Ideally, lights need to be positioned far enough away that the whole canopy is equally exposed, but close enough that they can benefit from increased intensity without burning. A good test is to place your hand right above the canopy; if the heat produced by the lights is uncomfortable for you, it is uncomfortable for your plants.

Reflective Walls

Reflective walls are one of the best ways to maximise lighting in an indoor grow room or tent. White plastic or Mylar, for example, naturally reflect excess light from your grow light back onto your plants, helping them develop healthier vegetative growth and denser buds.

Light Schedule

In general, the more light cannabis plants receive, the better. However, you’ll also want to make sure your light bill isn’t too hard on your back pocket. For the best results, without going overboard, we recommend sticking to an 18/6 light cycle during veg and 12/12 during flower.

Light colour

Cannabis is able to use certain light frequencies more effectively than others at certain stages of its life. Check out your flowering bulb’s colour emission; most manufacturers put the details on the box of the bulb. During the flowering stage, cannabis utilises the red frequencies of the light spectrum most efficiently, so using a bulb with a high output (660nm is ideal) during bloom will help boost the amount and density of bud. However, it is important to note that cannabis uses the entire spectrum to some degree, so bulbs should be full-spectrum with the red enhanced, not exclusively red.

Lighting Outdoors

If you’re growing outdoors, you’ve got the advantage of working with the best grow light on (or off) the planet. To help your outdoor cannabis plants produce dense buds, make sure you position them in the parts of your garden that receive the most sunlight, at the best times of day. For example, many growers try to find a spot that receives lots of sun in the morning and early afternoon, with more shade during the hottest hours of the late afternoon.

Optimising Temperature and Humidity

Temperature and humidity need to maintain an ideal balance in order for plants to develop dense and healthy buds. Otherwise, it could spell meagre results, or, worse—disaster.

The Correct Temperature for Cannabis

It is important that the temperature stays within an acceptable range. Average and peak temperatures should never be too low at night, and, more importantly, should never go above 30°C during daylight hours (if possible). The ideal range is between 18°C and 26°C. Too hot, and flowering will be stunted and buds can be seriously damaged. Outdoors, high temperatures can be an issue depending on where in the world you’re located. Gently spraying the plants with water can help them bear the heat of July and August temperatures (in the Northern Hemisphere). Just remember to avoid spraying any water on the leaves when your plants receive direct sunlight. During the hottest hours of the day, this can cause sunburns on the foliage.

Ideal Relative Humidity for Cannabis

Closely tied in with temperature, it is important that humidity also remains within acceptable bounds. Never surpass 60% RH in the flowering phase and try to progressively reduce it down to 45% in the last 2–3 weeks before harvest. The plant will go into overdrive as it seeks to protect its flowers, responding by producing denser buds with more resin. Lower humidity will also help avoid mould formation.

Vapour Pressure Deficit (VPD)

Vapour Pressure Deficit is all about getting the temperature and humidity in your grow room/tent exactly right. Manage that, and you’ll notice exceptional results come harvest time. By achieving the perfect balance between your temperature and relative humidity, you’ll help increase the rate at which your plants take up light, water, and nutrients, resulting in faster growth (during veg) and the development of bigger, denser buds during bloom.

Proper Plant Spacing

Another key aspect of growing denser buds is proper plant spacing. By keeping enough distance between your plants, you’ll ensure they don’t overshadow each other, helping to maximise the amount of light that reaches the bud sites on each plant. Plus, you’ll also help promote better air circulation throughout your grow room or garden, which makes it easier for plants to breathe and protects them against issues like mould, pathogens, or pests.

Supplementing With CO₂

Increasing the amount of CO₂ in your grow room can help you grow bigger, denser buds. By doing so, you’ll help plants photosynthesise faster and encourage them to take up more nutrients and water. Unfortunately, supplementing with CO₂ isn’t cheap, and it can drive up the humidity in small spaces.

Managing Temperature and Humidity Outdoors

If you’re an outdoor grower, you’re obviously at Mother Nature’s mercy. And, while you won’t have complete control over the temperature and humidity in the environment, there are a few things you can do to maximise your plants’ potential. These include:

– Properly spacing plants
– Employing proper watering and feeding techniques
– Placing your plants in a part of your garden with a gentle breeze (where possible)
– Covering your plants (or bringing them inside) when it gets too hot
– Protecting them from harsh rains, storms, gale winds, etc.

Nutrition — Properly Feeding Your Plants

You need to eat and drink, and so do your cannabis plants. To avoid light and airy buds, you’ve got to give your ladies something to snack on. Here’s what you need to consider.

Feeding Cannabis

Each strain has different feed requirements, so getting to know just how much feed a plant needs, and when to change amounts, comes with time and experience. However, generally, cannabis requires higher levels of nitrogen during the vegetative stage to push growth to the max, followed by higher levels of potassium during the flowering phase to fuel bud production. It is always a good idea to keep an eye on the pH of your growing medium, as it can affect nutrient uptake.

Easy Combo Booster Pack

Caring for Roots

As we mentioned earlier, the key to healthy cannabis plants is a healthy root system. One of the best ways to encourage your plants to grow big, healthy roots is by using mycorrhizae and other beneficial fungi and bacteria. Don’t underestimate these tiny organisms; not only do they help create the perfect environment for your plants’ roots (helping them function and grow at their best), but they also protect them from pathogens like Fusarium and Botrytis.

Overwatering

Roots need oxygen as well as water. Excessive watering fills all the small air pockets in the soil, eliminating any trace of oxygen for hours, or even days. As a result, plants will start showing droopy and curling leaves, and bud quality will be compromised if the problem is not solved.

Be careful not to water if the soil is still wet from the last drench, and be sure your pots can drain out any excess with ease. Moreover, always choose a light soil mix and add some extra perlite. Underwatering damages plants too, but that’s less common and much easier to fix.

Using Molasses and Amino Acids

Molasses is an often overlooked supplement that needs to be in every grower’s nutrient arsenal. A by-product of the sugar-refinement process, molasses is packed with nutrients that microorganisms such as beneficial bacteria and healthy fungi love. By regularly applying molasses to the soil, you’ll be helping to create a breeding ground for these microorganisms, creating the perfect environment for your plants’ roots in turn.

Amino acids can be used as a “super supplement” to promote the cellular strength of your plants, facilitate the growth of intracellular plant structures, improve the transportation of nutrients, and much more. Make sure to use amino acids in your next grow to ensure a heavier harvest of big, dense buds.

Going Organic

At RQS, we love growing cannabis organically, not only because it’s better for the environment, but because it produces a superior final product. While it might seem daunting, growing cannabis organically is really simple. A solid organic super soil (which you can make at home) and some compost or compost tea are essentially all you need to start your own organic cannabis garden, both indoors and outdoors.

Knowing When to Harvest

One of the keys to growing bigger, denser cannabis buds is patience. We see so many young, inexperienced cannabis growers eagerly harvest their plants far too early. The final stages of flowering are super important for bud development; as your plants are pushed further and further into flowering without pollination, they’ll fatten up and develop a thick, rich resin.

Make sure to always have a microscope on hand and harvest your buds once roughly 70% of the trichomes have turned cloudy. Alternatively, if you prefer a heavier, more relaxing stone, wait a little longer and harvest your plants once 50% of their trichomes have turned amber.

Preparing for Harvest Time Outdoors

Nailing harvest time outdoors can be tricky. Outdoor cannabis gardens are naturally more prone to stress from pathogens/pests and the environment. As harvest time approaches outdoors, we recommend you invest in biological pest control like predatory insects (ladybirds, beetles, and praying mantis) and healthy bacteria/fungi (found in supplements like worm castings and compost) to help protect your plants from pathogens and harmful insects.

We also recommend keeping a close eye on the weather and taking the necessary steps to keep your plants protected from autumn rains, storms, and early frosts.

Tired of airy, mediocre harvests? In this article, we'll teach you everything you need to know to start harvesting bigger, denser cannabis buds.

How To Grow Dense Cannabis Buds

Say “No” to Small, Airy Buds!

Grow Fat, Dense Cannabis Buds!

Top 5 Most Common Reasons for Airy Marijuana Buds
(get a complete breakdown of all the ways to increase bud density in the article below)

Light – The most common reason buds don’t develop as densely as they could is the plant didn’t get enough light in the flowering stage. Although cannabis can survive in relatively low light levels, it won’t produce much bud. Up to a point, more light in the flowering stage = bigger buds. On the flip side, too-bright light (less common, but can happen when buds are too close to grow lights) can also cause buds to develop poorly and/or produce airy, hairy fox-tails.

Strain / Genetics – Some strains will only produce airy buds no matter what you do. For example Sativa plants often grow buds that are less dense, while Indica buds tend to grow more compact. Although one style isn’t necessarily better than the other, if you want dense buds it’s important to start with genetics that come from a plant that grows dense buds.

Temperature – Cannabis wants the temperature just right for optimal bud growth, which is about the same temperature as what’s comfortable for humans. Too hot temps in the flowering stage (especially above 85°F/30°C) can cause plants to develop loose buds, and can also cause buds to herm and become seedy.

Nutrients – Buds won’t fatten and get dense unless they’re getting the right nutrients at the right time, which means low Nitrogen (N) and plenty of Phosphorus (P) and Potassium (K) in the flowering stage. Giving too much Nitrogen (found in all-purpose plant food) in the flowering stage results in smaller, looser buds. Learn more about nutrient ratios. Other nutrient problems and deficiencies can also negatively affect your bud development if left unchecked. However, the most common reason growers see nutrient problems hurt development in the flowering stage is incorrect pH at the plant roots.

Airflow & Bud Spacing – Poor airflow around buds and lack of strong, direct light will prevent those buds from developing as densely as they could. Buds need a little space to themselves in order to get big and dense, and won’t fatten up if they’re not directly exposed to fresh air and strong light. In the wild cannabis is a wind-pollinated plant, so it only spends energy growing and fattening buds that are exposed to a breeze and the sun. To make sure the buds are getting a breeze, each big cola on your plant should have a few inches of space around it that it’s not sharing with leaves or other buds.

Never grow loose, airy buds again!

6 More Tactics to Increase Bud Density
In addition to fixing the problems stated above, here’s a complete breakdown of additional tactics to increase bud density (more complete info in the article below or click the links)

Reduce humidity below 45% RH during last 2-3 weeks before harvest – Lowering the humidity towards the end of the flowering stage triggers a natural plant response that can make buds more dense as well as increase resin production

Density Boosting Supplements – There are two main classes of bloom-boosters. The first class focuses on enhancing plant processes, and uses dozens of various ingredients like amino acids and trace minerals. The second class works by increasing Phosphorus/Potassium levels directly. Some growers also use Blackstrap molasses in order to accomplish many of the same goals without needing a special plant supplement.

Don’t harvest too early! Harvesting too early will prevent your buds from finishing up. They gain a lot of weight and density during the last few weeks before harvest, and you’re hindering all your hard work by not waiting just a little longer.

Dry & Cure Your Buds – In addition to improving taste, smell and potency, drying and curing your buds the right way will cause them to “tighten up” a bit. If you dry your buds too quickly or don’t cure them in glass jars, you’re missing out on almost 50% of what’s going to determine your final bud quality!

Don’t overwater your plants – it’s boring but true! Not much to say about this, but don’t overlook this common issue and make sure to water your plants right. If your plants leaves are droopy, it means you could be missing out on better growth!

Get a Big Enough Container – If your container is too small your plant just won’t be able to support bigger, denser buds no matter what else you do. Make sure to get the right size container and if possible, get a “smart pot” or “air pot” as they prevent overwatering, increase growth and support larger plants!

Continue reading to learn more in depth about these tactics and techniques to boost buds density!

How to Grow Dense Cannabis Buds Every Time

1.) Provide enough light (but not too much)

Bright but not too bright. When new growers have problems with light, it’s usually that their grow is under-powered. A few small CFLs or a tiny LED grow light that uses less than 100W is seriously underpowered even for one plant. Although plants will grow under these types of light in the vegetative stage, they’re not powerful enough to really drive bud growth in the flowering stage. Which cannabis grow light works best?

Even if the plant is healthy, buds never thicken up properly if they don’t get enough light in the flowering stage

The next most common reason growers have trouble with light levels is they keep their grow lights too close or too far away from their plants.

How far away to keep different types of lighting

MH/HPS – depends on the size of the grow light – learn how far away MH/HPS grow lights should be from your plants

Fluorescents & CFLs – keep as close as possible without hurting your plants with heat. If cool enough, these can be kept just inches away from plants. Make sure all parts of the plants are within a few inches of a fluorescent bulb for the densest buds.

LED grow lights – it’s a good idea to consult the manufacturer to learn how far away these should be from your plant because every model is different. Most LED grow lights should be kept at least 18″ (45cm) from the tops of the plants. The more powerful LEDs may need to be kept even further away to prevent bud and leaf burn in the second half of the flowering stage.

Outdoor growers should try to ensure that plants get 8+ hours of direct sunlight every day, but you may want to protect plants with a screen on scorching hot days.

CFL grow lights should be kept as close to buds as possible as long as heat is under control. If they’re kept more than a few inches away from the buds, like these ones, the buds will never fatten up or become dense

On the flip side, LED grow lights are commonly kept too close, which burns your buds in the late flowering stage and may cause bleaching, hermies and/or foxtails. Most LEDs need to be kept 18″ or more away from the tops of your plants in the second half of the flowering stage

LED burnt buds (from LEDs being too close) often end up growing thin, loose and leafy

Read the full tutorial on optimal grow light distance from plants

Color spectrum – yellow/orange/red colored grow lights (like the light from HPS bulbs or “soft white” colored CFLs/fluorescents) tend to produce the densest buds. Their color mimics the reddish light from the autumn sun. However bright light in any spectrum will produce good bud as long as there’s enough brightness.

HPS lights produce intense light levels and give off a color spectrum that is ideal for big yields and very dense buds.

HPS grow lights are one of the most efficient grow lights available today as far as electricity used for density/yields produced (even more efficient than most LED grow lights). They’re actually relatively cheap to start with, they’re just the right color spectrum for optimal flowering, and they’re more standardized and intuitive to use than many other types of grow lights. Learn more about finding the right size HPS for your space

Some growers use Metal Halide and other more “blue” colored lights for the flowering stage, and still produce good results. In fact some growers prefer MH lights for budding (even though yields are lower) because they believe the light spectrum increases trichome/resin production and overall potency. There is still testing going, but the results look especially promising for CMH / LEC grow lights, a variant of MH lights that uses a ceramic arc tube (very similar to what’s used in HPS bulbs) to increase the brightness. However, even with these improvements, CMH grow lights are still significantly less bright than HPS grow lights (CMH: 90-105 lumens/watt vs HPS: 105-150 lumens/watt). Learn more.

No matter which grow lights you’re using…

  • Make sure you’re using a good reflector and reflective walls to get as much light as possible to your plants
  • Keep lights close to the top of your canopy without increasing heat to unsuitable levels or light-burning plants. Close but not too close! It’s important to find out how far your grow lights should be for optimum growth.
  • Make sure that all parts of the plant (and especially bud sites) are bathed in bright light – any buds in a shadowy part of the plant won’t become dense!

2.) Grow a strain that tends to produce dense buds

Genetics play a huge role in how your cannabis plants grow, including the appearance, smell and taste of their buds.

Indica-dominant strains tend to produce more dense buds (though not always of course). The indica-leaning buds pictured to the right are incredibly dense and were grown under intense light, but the majority of strains could never achieve this density no matter what you do as a grower. To a certain degree, density is determined by strain.

Some sativa-leaning strains tend to produce less dense buds, but also provide a cerebral “daytime” effect that many growers love. Sativa-dominant strains can still be high-yielding so you may end up with very long buds as opposed to small thick nuggets like with some indica-leaning strains.

Seeing different grows featuring a strain will help give you an idea of what the buds of that particular strain tend to look like.

Important! There are sometimes different versions of strains by different breeders. You can often find several versions of very popular strains, and each version can grow wildly different from each other and which produce different results.

“White Widow” from one breeder may be completely different that “White Widow” by another breeder. So when researching strains, always pay attention to the breeder in addition to the strain name. Learn about some trusted breeders.

How to Research a Marijuana Strain
(or read the full tutorial here)

  • Make a list of a few possible strains to grow – If you don’t already have an idea about which strain you want to grow, it helps to start by narrowing down your list of possible strains. When I’m researching for a new grow, I usually start with a big seed bank,since they give you lots of helpful information about each strains. These big seed sources usually have a “strain selector” option that lets you put in the specific features you’re looking for and get a list of results. I use Seedsman because they only carry seeds by trusted breeders.
  • Search for a grow journal with pictures of your strain during the grow process – Type “STRAIN-NAME grow” into Google.com and look at the regular results plus the Google image results. When looking at image results, it’s important to click through to the page instead of just looking at the image so you can learn more. These steps may give you good leads toward finding a grow journal featuring your strain, but not always. Remember to also pay attention to which breeder the grower got their strain from.
  • Search for the strain name on Youtube – you may possibly find people who may have grown the strain and documented their grow with video. Video is a great way to give you an idea of your strain might look like in the flowering stage, and lots of growers post full video grow journals on Youtube. Again, also pay attention to the strain breeder.
  • Seedfinder – I like the site http://en.seedfinder.eu/ for strain research. It is one of the best ways to find out the genealogy and ancestry of a strain by a particular breeder. It has growing reviews and pictures for some strains which is really helpful, but that can be hit or miss since many strains are missing any type of grower feedback. Some of the reviews are in German or other languages. You can translate almost any language into English by copying and pasting it here: https://translate.google.com/

One last thing to keep in mind… Looks are important to many growers, and looks are part of the whole experience when using cannabis.

…But when it comes down to choosing the strain, I recommend to first choose strains that produce the effects you like as opposed to thinking only about density or looks. Some strains may not produce buds that look as dense as what you see in magazines and online, but will give you exactly the effects you are looking for.

3.) Keep temperature under 85°F (30°C)

While it isn’t always possible to control temperature, there’s a lot you can do (especially indoors) to keep temps at the optimum levels for bud development. Choosing a suitable strain for your growing environment will also make a big difference.

Cannabis plants like temps around 70-80°F (20-26°C) in the flowering stage for best development. Temps over 85°F (30°C) usually makes buds grow parts that are noticeably more airy than the same plant grown under proper temps.

  • Indica-leaning strains are better at handling cold
  • Sativa or equatorial strains are better at handling heat

Too much heat triggers heat burn, airy buds, fox-tailing and also reduces potency and smell, especially for indica-leaning strains which are less resistant to heat. High temps can also lead to seedy buds if your plant herms as a result of the stress.

This bud was exposed to high temps and never really grew more than a few calyxes and lots of sugar leaves

Fox-tailing caused by heat – the entire bud is larfy and airy

Too much heat causes thin buds and strange growth patterns

Too-cold temps (especially during first 6 weeks of flowering) are less common but can also cause airy buds that don’t ever fatten up and grow dense.

Cold temps can also keep buds from developing, like this outdoor plant grown in a cold climate

Cold temps can also cause leaves and stems to turn purple. Purple leaves can be problematic since green leaves make more energy from light. That’s why it’s a good idea to avoid letting leaves turn purple too early in the flowering process.

Although indica-leaning strains tend to be more cold-resistant and sativa-leaning strains tend to be more heat-resistant, almost all strains available today are some sort of hybrid. Instead of relying just on a strain’s classification as Indica or Sativa, it’s important to learn about the particular strain and how it reacts to heat and cold. Even more importantly, watch your plant for signs of stress!

4.) Nutrients – Use the right N-P-K ratios for the flowering stage! (but don’t go overboard)

Give your plants the right ratios of cannabis nutrients during the flowering stage (while avoiding nutrient burn). Not only does this help you avoid nutrient deficiencies, it also gives your plant the building blocks needed to make buds.

Don’t forget about pH! It can be tempting to ignore this part, but pH is also incredibly important when it comes to nutrient absorption. Managing pH properly is one of the best ways to make sure that plant has easy access to nutrients at the roots.

The N-P-K values are listed on the back of most nutrient bottles

What nutrients does a cannabis plant need in order to make dense buds? In the budding stage, make sure to provide a little Nitrogen, a lot of Potassium, and a good source of Phosphorus.

Best for cannabis flowering stage (“Bloom Nutes”):

  • A little Nitrogen (N)
  • A good source of Phosphorus (P) – definitely more than Nitrogen, and possibly more than Potassium as well
  • A lot of Potassium (K) – about double the amount of Nitrogen or more

Giving relatively low levels of Nitrogen during the flowering stage helps buds fatten up

It’s important to avoid giving too much N while plants are budding, as too much Nitrogen prevents proper bud formation and results in lower yields and airy buds. This means you should not use your vegetative or all-purpose nutrients (which are high in N) during the flowering stage!

Nutrient bottles list their nutrient levels with 3 numbers. These numbers stand for N-P-K levels. In the flowering stage, avoid giving plants too much Nitrogen (N) but make sure plants get a good source of Phosphorus (P) and Potassium (K).

Dyna-Gro “Bloom” plant food, shown below, is an example of a flowering formula that has good ratios of N-P-K for the cannabis flowering stage. Any quality cannabis nutrients designed for the flowering are formulated to give your plants exactly what’s needed to produce buds.

You can take out pretty much all of the guesswork out of nutrient ratios by using a cannabis-friendly “bloom” nutrient formula during the flowering stage.

Examples of cannabis-friendly “Bloom” NPK ratios:

  • 3-12-6
  • 4-8-7
  • 2-3-5

Note: Avoid nutrients that are labeled “Grow,” “Vegetative” or “All-Purpose” in the flowering stage! In an emergency, if you can’t find specific Bloom nutrients, get cactus nutrients as they use a similar nutrient ratio as flowering cannabis plants.

For those not using nutrients, starting with amended and composted super soil is the best way make sure plants get access to the nutrients they need at the right time. As a bonus, when starting with properly composted soil, it’s the one time you don’t need to worry about pH!

5.) Expose all buds to both high levels of light and a gentle breeze – each cola needs space to increase density to maximum levels!

The most dense and weighty buds on the plant have a few inches of space to themselves and are exposed to both bright light and airflow. Buds hidden in the plant by leaves (without access to much airflow or light) stay airy and tend to never fatten up or become dense. In fact, buds sitting in stagnant, non-moving air may stop developing completely. This is why you often see small buds on very leafy plants!

Let me show you how much a difference it makes to expose buds to bright light and air. This example used defoliation. Defoliation means removing leaves, and is an advanced technique that is not suitable for beginners. Defoliation should only be used on very leafy, healthy plants that are under bright lights.

For those worried about taking off too much, similar results can be obtained much more safely simply by tucking leaves to expose bud sites.

Here’s a leafy, healthy plant which is being grown under bright grow lights – notice how many bud sites are hidden in the middle of the plant. You cant even see them all!

Here’s the plant immediately after tucking and removing leaves – notice that the buds are now much more exposed to air

Less than 2 weeks later (and after another defoliation session)

The biggest colas are the ones that get exposed to the most light and air. This may happen because cannabis plants are wind-pollinated in nature. Buds that aren’t exposed to air can never be pollinated in the wild, so the plants may “give up” on them. Yet when buds are exposed to light and air, the plant “knows” they can possibly be pollinated by the wind and so the plant puts energy toward fattening them up. Hidden buds don’t fatten up, so give your buds room and expose them to a gentle breeze!

For the most dense buds, make sure each cola has a few inches of space to itself while developing

One easy way to accomplish this growth pattern is to use the manifolding technique while the plant is still young. This spreads the plant out while producing many well-spaced colas.

6.) Lower humidity below 45% RH during last 2-3 weeks before harvest

Keep humidity under 45% in the flowering stage (especially in the last 2-3 weeks before harvest) to trigger your plant’s natural response to go into bud production overdrive. Very low relative humidity in late flower may enhance density levels, promote resin production, produce more of a smell/taste, and possibly even increase potency. Lower humidity will also prevent bud rot from forming in the middle of dense buds.

Indoor growers have a lot of options for controlling humidity in the grow space.

Outdoors, it’s best to find a strain that is suitable to growing in your climate, and give plants cover when you know there’s going to be bad weather coming soon. Protect buds from getting too wet in rainy weather, and if at all possible try to plant them in a place where they will get some amount of wind.

Lower humidity during the last few weeks before harvest can boost resin production and bud density

7.) Use Density Boosting Supplements

Before thinking about supplements, it’s most important to making sure you’re first providing the right base nutrients. Without proper base nutrients, your plant simply won’t grow or produce buds no matter what supplements you provide. So get your base nutrients first. But once you know you’re giving your plants the essentials, what do you add next?

Some cannabis supplements claim to increase yields and bud density, and generally these supplements contain a source of sugar. They also often contain ingredients such as amino acids, humic acids, vitamins, trace minerals and other additives which may be helpful to bud formation. There is another common “formula” for bloom boosters that adds a lot of extra Phosphorus and Potassium.

Give 1/2 tsp per gallon of Blackstrap Molasses when watering (for soil or coco coir) for the last 2-3 weeks before harvest to possibly increase density as well as improve taste/smell of buds

As a cheap alternative to expensive bloom boosting supplements, some growers water plants with a small amount of blackstrap molasses for the last few weeks or so before to help buds get bigger/more dense (it’s just the regular stuff you find in your kitchen or at the grocery store). It adds sugar as well as amino acids and various trace minerals. As a bonus, molasses can also improve the taste/smell of your buds. However, anything organic like molasses is not suitable for a hydroponic reservoir! Only for soil and coco growers 🙂

The jury is still out and which is the most effective supplement, but many growers are happy with bloom promoting supplements that include sources of…

  • carbohydrates/sugar
  • amino acids
  • humic acids
  • vitamins
  • trace minerals

I personally don’t use this type of supplement so I can’t recommend a particular one, but some of the most popular cannabis supplements based on this type of formula include…

  • Floralicious Plus (by General Hydroponics)
  • Liquid Karma (by Botanicare)
  • Diamond Black (by General Organics)

Note: These are only for soil or coco coir! (since these supplements contain a lot of organic materials like guano and fishmeal, they are not suitable to hydroponic reservoirs)

The supplements listed above use ingredients that add only tiny amounts of base nutrients (NPK). They use other ingredients to help the plant use its resources better, or in the case of sugar, to directly plump up buds. But that’s not the ony kind of density-boosting supplement.

Density-Boosting Supplements with Extra P & K

  • Phosphorus (P) increases number of flowers
  • Potassium (K) increases weight/density of flowers

Many popular density/yield increasing supplements contain extra Phosphorus (P) and Potassium (K), sometimes with a small amount of Sulfur (S), and possibly other ingredients like amino acids, trace minerals and/or sugar.

However, it’s very important to use these types of supplements sparingly as your regular base Bloom nutrients will already contain quite a bit of P and K. Although you want to make sure your plant can get as much P and K as it can use while making buds, you don’t want to give too much or you’re just going to burn your plants and/or cause a nutrient deficiency (too much of one nutrient can cause deficiencies in others).

Suitable for Hydro, Soil or Coco – Supplements to Increase Yields/Density with extra P & K

  • Liquid Koolbloom (by General Hydroponics)
  • Hydroplex (by Botanicare)
  • Beastie Bloomz (by Fox Farms)

8.) Don’t harvest too early!

When you harvest at the right time, you’re giving your buds the time they need to develop to their fullest. Harvesting too early will lower your yields and you’ll usually end up with more airy and less developed buds. Even worse, harvesting too early causes reduced potency and some people may get headaches from early-harvested buds.

Don’t harvest while pistils are still white and sticking out

Wait until buds are mature and have thickened up!

These buds were harvested at the right time, giving them the chance to thicken and tighten up as much as possible.

9.) Dry & Cure Your Buds

Proper drying and curing after harvest can help buds become slightly more dense, while also adding to better taste, smell, potency and bag appeal.

A proper dry/cure can help “tighten up” buds

10.) Don’t overwater your plants – it’s boring but true!

This may seem like a boring one, but just a few simple precautions can make your plant grow faster and produce bigger yields. If you want to get the most dense bud possibles, you want to cover all your bases.

So if your plant looks droopy all the time, chances are it’s hurting your yields even if otherwise your plant looks healthy!

Roots “breathe” oxygen, so good root health involves giving just the right amount of water while maximizing the amount of oxygen available to the roots with air pockets. When the roots aren’t getting enough oxygen, the plant can’t properly get water or use nutrients. As a result of unhappy roots, leaves may show signs of drooping or nutrient deficiencies, and buds stop developing.

So it’s important to water plants properly and take good care of roots for dense buds!

11.) Get a Big Enough Container & use a “Smart Pot” or “Air Pot” If Possible

The type and size of the containers you use for growing cannabis determine how big your plant can get and ultimately how much bud it can support. Smaller containers can only support smaller plants, and small plants can only grow relatively small buds. So when growng cannabis, it’s important to get a container that’s big enough to support the size plant you want.

Some types of containers such as smart pots (and air pots) actually make your plant grow faster! A smart pot is a fabric pot that lets plant roots get air from the sides, causing faster growth, while an air pot is a plastic pot with holes in the side. They also prevent plants from becoming root-bound from a too small container. Learn more about smart pots & air pots!

Get “smart pots” or “air pots” (containers that let air in from the side) to prevent plants from becoming rootbound so plants plants can get bigger than they would in a regular plant container. These types of pots also cause plants to grow faster!

In the end, density is definitely not the only thing to consider when deciding the quality of buds. There can be times when buds are too dense (which increases the chances of mold and bud rot) and there are also several strains that produce less dense buds which have amazing effects. In my opinion, an ounce is an ounce is an ounce. If you harvest an ounce of airy buds with great effects, to me that’s just as good as an ounce of dense buds with great effects, so enjoy what you grow while striving for better!

Review: How to Grow Dense Buds!

1.) Provide the right amount of light

Not enough light is the most common reason buds don’t develop as dense as they could. On the flip side, too-bright light (or buds being too close to grow lights) can also cause buds to develop poorly and/or produce airy fox-tails.

2.) Start with a strain that tends to grow dense buds

Start with the right strain to grow buds the way you want. Some strains won’t grow tight, dense buds no matter what you do.

Indica-leaning strains tend to have more dense buds, but it’s a good idea to always research a strain before growing it.

One strain that reliably produces dense buds and good yields is Moby Dick by Dinafem. This hybrid strain is popular because although the buds have strong, psychoactive Sativa-like effects, the plant grows dense buds and has a relatively short flowering period just like an Indica.

3.) Control temperature

Cannabis wants the temperature just right for optimal bud growth. Too-hot or too-cold temps can cause buds to grow airy.

Start with a thermometer! (this one also measures humidity)

Cannabis like temps around 70-80°F (20-26°C) in the flowering stage for best development.

  • Indica-leaning strains are better and handling cold
  • Sativa or equatorial strains are better at handling heat

4.) Cannabis Nutrients

Buds won’t fatten and get dense if the base nutrients aren’t right. Nutrient problems can be caused by incorrect pH, not giving enough nutrients, giving too much nutrients, or by giving the plant the wrong kind of nutrients in the flowering stage.

5.) Expose all buds to both light and a gentle breeze

Poor airflow around buds will prevent those buds from developing as dense as they could. In the wild cannabis is a wind-pollinated plant, and it only spends energy growing and fattening buds that are exposed to fresh air with a gentle breeze.

So make sure your buds are getting exposed to airflow. A small circulating fan works great to add more air movement to the grow space.

6.) Take care of roots

Under-watering, overwatering, and/or root problems (such as root rot or a too-small container) will hurt yields and prevent buds from getting as dense as they could be since the plant isn’t able to run at peak efficiency.

Roots “breathe” oxygen, so good root health involves giving just the right amount of water while maximizing the amount of oxygen available to the roots with air pockets.

So it’s important to water plants properly and take good care of roots for dense buds. Your plants will thank you for it.

There are also a few popular root supplements to help care for your root health:

7.) Keep Humidity Under 40% RH for Last 2-3 Weeks Before Harvest

Indoor growers have a lot of options for controlling humidity in the grow space.

Outdoors, it’s best to find a strain that is suitable to growing in your climate, and give plants cover when you know there’s going to be bad weather coming soon. Protect outdoor plants from wind in dry weather. Protect buds from getting too wet in rainy weather.

8.) Density-Boosting Cannabis Supplements

These supplements focus on enhances plant processes. I personally don’t use these types of supplements so I can’t recommend a particular one, but many growers swear by them. Some popular supplements of this type include…​

For soil or coco coir (since these supplements contain a lot of organic materials like guano and fishmeal, they are not suitable to hydroponic reservoirs)

  • Floralicious Plus (by General Hydroponics)
  • Liquid Karma (by Botanicare)
  • Diamond Black (by General Organics)

Suitable for Hydro, Soil or Coco – These supplements Increase Yields/Density with extra Phosphorus (P) & Potassium (K)

  • Liquid Koolbloom (by General Hydroponics)
  • Hydroplex (by Botanicare)
  • Beastie Bloomz (by Fox Farms)

9.) Don’t Harvest Early

When you harvest at the right time, you’re giving your buds the time they need to develop to their fullest. Harvesting too early will lower your yields and you’ll usually end up with more airy and less developed buds.

An important tool for harvesting at the right time is a magnifier to look closely at buds, like a jeweler’s loupe or (even better) a digital magnifier that displays the trichomes on a screen.

We took the above video using the Carson zOrb hooked up to a laptop. So far this seems to be the easiest accurate way to look at trichomes (and you can make the picture big so you’re not squinting through a tiny jeweler’s loupe 🙂

10.) Drying & Curing

Proper drying and curing after harvest can help buds become slightly more dense, while also adding to better taste, smell, potency and bag appeal.

Drying rack (optional) – use this if you live in a very humid climate as these help you dry buds more quickly.

Hygrometer (optional) – I like the Caliber IV Hygrometer because it easily fits inside quart mason jars

Humidipaks (optional) – Boveda Medium 62% packs are cheap and specifically formulated for storing cannabis so it does not dry out or get crispy

11.) Get a Big Enough Container

If your container is too small, your plant won’t be able to support big, dense buds. By choosing the right container size, you’ll help maximize your plant’s potential!

Discover the top 5 reasons buds become loose or airy, then learn how you can produce dense buds every time!