As practitioners in the fields of horticulture and urban agriculture (fields we give important names to because they follow a proven process and mean something to us) – we growers and gardeners spend an inordinate amount of time fretting about the details while ignoring the important issue of canopy management.
All of us agree on the important things; the quality of our substrate, the stability of the environment, control over pathogens, deficiencies and excesses, good light, quality inputs, genetics, sustainability, biodiversity. All important stuff… but ultimately our efforts are geared towards producing quality and volume in our harvests.
How do we efficiently get from point A (seed) to point B (harvest) with maximum potential being achieved? It’s a bunch of work. And nothing important should be omitted.
That being said, there is a metaphor that bounces around about a barrel and how each of the staves must fit with the others for the stave joints not to leak. If a stave is not fit or built sufficiently, or is missing: The water will leak and the barrel can never be full.
This metaphor as an analogy to describe an often overlooked leak in the barrel of our common growing knowledge: The problem of: how do we hold up our plants?
In controlled growing environments it is of great importance to manage the canopy. Canopy management should be considered a stave in the barrel for a number of reasons:
· To get even distribution of the best quality light at the optimal distance on the greatest number of fruiting and flowering parts to achieve maximum yield.
· To train branches for topiary or bonsai structures.
· To ensure that the plant is given sufficient ventilation and is not exposed to any environmental extremes such as heat or air flow stagnation.
· To use ways of stabilizing the plant and then anchor tie-offs in such a way that the plant is not damaged because breakage means the loss of quality produce.
Some plants don’t need help; but some do, and most of us treat this as an afterthought. We spend time and money on all of the previously mentioned details, but then just jab stakes in into the root-zone and tie-off branches as they fall or droop. Pre-planning usually involves either a one-size-fits-all structure or some serious DIY.
That said doing something is the right thing to do: Why wouldn’t all of us serious growers make a plan and fret, in advance, over the details and how to get the biggest bang for our bucks? Canopy management will help to produce larger harvests and make everything else we do work better.