In The Beginning
“The Sea of Green came about in the mid-1980s, supposedly originating in Holland as a commercial growing technique to bring decorative flowers to market quickly and easily. It was hailed as a new revolutionary indoor growing technique. Grow lots of weed in very little time using clones instead of seeds and the fact that every clone is female, makes things even easier. The idea is fairly simple: grow more, smaller plants, in less time, for higher yields. The more space you have, the easier it is to adapt to the sea of green. Horizontal space, that is. The sea of green method works well for people who have height restrictions. You could technically grow tiny buds five to seven inches tall. What results is a plant that is no more than 18-20 inches in height and packed together tightly in a small area resembling something like “buds on a stick” or “budsicles”. With little to no side branching, the plants grow straight up and form one cola. You also should begin with a plant that is suitable for SoG. That means a plant that is usually indica or indica dominant. Utilizing this technique and rotating the crops, you can create a perpetual harvest, producing dank, tight, THC laden buds every month of the year. All that is needed is one single mother plant. I will attempt to explain the steps of a basic SoG setup. What follows is a case study on my SoG setup. With a little bit of planning, almost anyone can do a SoG.
The Mother Plant System
First, you need an established mother plant. You will have to start from seed, or a donor clone. From seed, it can take from four to six months to establish a stable strain and mother plant. If you are given a donor clone, then someone has already done the hard part, sexing, and picking out a good phenotype. The plant has to be established enough to take the max number of cuttings you will need to fill some of your space. This can be anywhere from four to six weeks, depending on the size of the plant and its vigor. SoG plants are always much shorter than plants grown from seedlings and they are flowered as quickly as possible in the SoG environment. You can not do this with seedlings because young cannabis plants are not sexually mature enough to be flowered like this. In fact, sexual orientation is generally not genetically determined until the third or fourth week pf vegetative growth. This same rule applies to feminized seeds that can become males under certain conditions. For example, you will want to take as many cuttings to fill just half or even a quarter of your total flowering space. Label, and date those cuttings. About 14-21 days later, take some more cuttings, label and date. About 14-21 more days, take a few more cuttings, and so on, until you have enough cuttings to completely fill your flowering area. A good strategy for keeping the mother plants short and producing lots of cuttings is to use the “fim” or “fimming” technique. This is a technique of topping that allows you to take your cuttings and shape the mother plant so that off one cutting, you get multiple other shoots/branches that grow out from the single cut.
Decide how many cuttings you want to flower at a time. For example, let’s say the total number of plants your flowering area supports is 12. You can take 3-4 cuttings. Wait 2-3 weeks, and then take 3-4 more cuttings meanwhile planting 3-4 of the original cuttings. Wait 3-4 more weeks; take 3-4 more new cuttings. This is how the rotation begins, also known as “staggering” your harvests.
The “in-betweens” are cuttings that are recently placed into the medium in the 5 inch pots, under florescent lighting 18 hours a day. The in betweens should stay in this area for about a week. Depending upon the strain, they can be in this area from one to two weeks. The idea is to let them gain enough root strength to really take off in growth. If the plant was taken as a cutting at 2-3 inches, it can grow easily up to 8-12 inches before being placed into the flowering area. The dreaded “stretch” is what you want to avoid in certain strains though, and only careful personal observation and verifying the strains traits and qualities, limiting the in between times for the plants that do have a tendency to stretch to about a week solves this problem
The Flowering Area
This is of course where the lights are always on 12/12. You can set the lights on 11/13, like I do, to save a little on the juice. This is the heart of the SoG, the main canopy of plants, in some sort of layout that is akin to a “bowl” or “bowl shaped”, where the smaller plants are in the middle and the larger plants on the outer edges of the light spread. Ideally, your plants should be on a table like setting on wheels, where you can have physical access to every part of the canopy for easy maintenance. The pots are a key part to SoG success, they are placed close together and are taller then they are wide, and are crammed together.
The Setup: A Case Study
Let’s talk a little bit about the setup. I have a hydro setup, ebb and flow. I’m specifically using the baby bloomer trays designed and made by General Hydroponics. The dimensions are 31" x 12" x 12 it can fit ten, five inch pots. I have 14 of these trays logically configured in an 8 x 5 area. 3 x 1000w HID lights cover the area with about 420 thousand lumens two high pressure sodium’s and one Metal Halide (145k lumens for the hps and about 130k lumens for the mh). I have a 630cfm eight inch inline fan for the intake on a digital timer. I have a 430cfm Daton blower on the outtake, on a digital timer synchronized with the intake timer. The outtake duct goes into the attic. I plan to add a carbon scrubber on the end of the outtake line as soon as funds and time permits. There is a hanging deionizer. There are two other fans I use, one is a large oscillating 2500cfm fan, and the other one is a smaller, desk size oscillating fan. This really keeps the air moving in the flowering room. Because the plants are in the pots for the shortest amount if time, the smallest pot can be used. Most growers I know that do SoG use the 5 inch and 6 inch pots. I use the 5 inch pots and I only use 8 pots per tray, to allow room and space between the plants. What’s nice about the ebb and flow tray is you can move the plants around freely. The other nice thing about the ebb & flow system is that if one plant becomes diseased or infected it can come out right away, and the roots aren’t connected. Systems that have fixed plants (aero and nft systems for example) don’t do as well in a perpetual SoG. It has a 6 gallon reservoir, but I only fill it to 5. It is of course much easier if there is only one reservoir, only one tub to change, monitor pH, nutrients, etc.
***Taking cuttings is the most important part of any SoG system. A SoG relies entirely on cuttings***
Make sure you are proficient at taking and rooting cuttings before relying on clones as a primary source of incoming plants, make sure you have at least 90% rooting success rate. Read up on the following: How to Clone
The Perpetual Harvest
By now, it should be obvious that you need a separate vegetation area for cuttings and “in-betweens”; concurrently with the flowering area. This is actually a very important cog of the perpetual SoG machine. While constructing the area for a sog it is generally good practice to allow between a quarter to a third of your area for the clones and mothers and in betweens. Ideally, you want the same number of plants already rooted and planted in pots, ready to replace the plants that are to be harvested. The next step is to decide on a rotation schedule that works best for your strain. I put a new round of cuttings in every 4 weeks. That way, I’m harvesting once a month and putting new plants in once a month also. I just so happen to have strains that mature at 7 and 8 weeks. I simply replace the harvested plants with rooted cuttings 4-6 inches tall. This depends on a few things, such as strains and their respective maturation times. So, it takes some calculating to determine the times of harvest for each strain, but the setup is actually ideal, if you’re going to be growing multiple strains. The flowering area is always at max capacity, or as close to it as possible. Here’s a quote from a webpage I found:
Sea of Green: The Perpetual Harvest
New York: Sea of Green (0-9647858-1-1), 1998
“The Sea of Green is a specialized, mass-production technique for growing marijuana indoors in which the time required to bring your crop to harvest is shortened by controlling the light period. All aspects of the plant's life are controlled so that the shortest amount of time is taken to produce the largest amount of product in the least amount of space and a minimal amount of work.
We have developed this process into the 'cottage industry' of marijuana-growing techniques. That is because we have fashioned the process to be easily accomplished by the average person, using common, standard items and equipment . . .
Another dynamic aspect of the process is the 18' to 22' single-stalk bud. The growing of all nonessential parts of the marijuana plant is eliminated. The main stem and the lower part of the lateral branches are all unnecessary. The only part you really need to grow is the tip of the growing terminal: the 'cola bud,' the very best part of the plant. This takes only a percentage of the time and effort it would take to grow a marijuana plant using the standard method.
Using this way of doings things, you can harvest over two ounces of primo pot every two weeks! This can be done in any indoor space of any size, and you can decide whether you want to harvest at one-, two-, or three-week intervals."
“Just think of SOG like ANSI, its about common standards and practices” - Ozgrowa
The cuttings may have to sit under 18 hrs of light for a few days to reach their optimum heights. This is done in (preferably) another, separate area, under fluorescents or another HID light under an 18 hour regimen. You can adjust the rotation timings a lot of different ways, but this is what I have found to work best for me and the strains I have. For example, if you wished to harvest a plant every week, you could do so. All you would have to do is make sure a plant was ready to go in its place when you harvested. Or, you could set it up so you harvest every two weeks, or every three weeks and so on up to 8 weeks (or up to whatever the strain maturation rate is). So, the basic flow chart of a SoG might look like this:
I use cloning gel
Soak the cubes for a few minutes
Use a large nail to make the pre made hole a little deeper
Choose a 3-4 inch branch/shoot
Use a razor blade and make the cut
Dip/stir the cutting in the gel, really coat the stem with the gel
Document the strain and its orientation in the cutting tray so it’s easy for you to track your cuttings
Place cutting trays on heat mats and make sure ambient temps are around 72F.
2.)Plant rooted cuttings
The “in-betweens” are planted, at optimal heights of eight to ten inches tall. You will have to observe your strain, and determine the exact time and height to put them into the flowering room. It’s also a good idea to wait until your cuttings are rooted, bursting with roots, not just a tap root or two. They tend to do better all the way around. I’ve planted cuttings no taller then 2 inches and they ended up as tall as 22 inches (some sativa influenced strain), and also have planted indica strains at only 2 inches ending in heights of around 17 or 18 inches tall. The key is the root establishment at this stage. If you put a cutting that doesn’t have very many roots busting out, in a pot and place it directly into the flowering room, it may not get very big because it never got a chance to establish itself. So, if you want to minimize the veg time and maximize the plants establishment rate you want to have the root system just going bananas.
3.)Flowering the plants
Place the vegetated clone in the flowering area. Pack as many as you can together in a small area. I like to leave a little space between them to allow room for growth and good air flow. My general rule of thumb is to space them apart just so they are just touching each others leaves. If they are touching too many leaves, they are getting too crowded or are packed too close together.
4.)Harvest your plants
Harvest the plants and replace the harvested plants with rooted, “in between” plants. Ideally each replacement is at its optimal height when placed in the flowering room. Anywhere between 8 to 12 inches is optimal height. This is strain dependant. When I harvest my plants, they are typically anywhere between 8 to 20 inches in length when harvested. They typically have a weight of anywhere between 10 to 24 grams each. Sometimes I have seen some that have been more than an ounce each. A decent drying space is needed to dry and cure the wonderful weed. I have a drying rack I made out of a bakers rack I bought off of eBay. I made the screen shelves out of screen rolls and some stakes from the local nursery. I fashioned frames out of the stakes and stapled the screen to the frames. I can comfortably fit one bloomer tray worth of buds on the screen tray to dry. There is a clip on fan and an oscillating fan on a low setting directed on the rack to help facilitate airflow. It takes about a week (7 full days) sometimes a few more days more is needed to fully cure the really thick dank buds. I then place them in Tupperware tubs to be stored. If they aren’t fully dry at this point, I continue the process by simply opening the Tupperware tub at least once a day for a few minutes to expose the buds to the air. This is sometimes referred to as the “burping” or “breathing” method.
5.)Replace the cuttings
Take more cuttings to replace the cuttings transplanted to the “in between” area. Take as many cuttings as the next harvest requires. In other words, work backwards, from the very next harvest. For example, if I place an “in between” in today, in eight weeks I will be harvesting, so, I will need to have a clone already in between’d by then. I figure it should only take about three weeks or so to go from cutting to plant. So I figure three weeks or so backwards from the harvest date and that’s when I should be taking more cuttings to fill the harvest void. Add a few days, to compensate for the “in between” times.
As you can see, the sog technique isn’t quite for everyone. It challenges every aspect of the growing experience to the fullest extent. All your growing skills are tested all the time. From managing the moms to harvesting your plants, there is almost something to do all the time. It is more labor intensive because you are in more of a constant state of doing something. From making cuttings, cleaning the pots and the rocks, removing the dead leaves off some mother plants, and installing stakes for some plants that are falling over because they are too top heavy. You get the idea. There are many other reasons for utilizing the SoG technique. If one is into breeding, SoG is a good way to breed your strains and complete generations quickly.