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Fix the “Limiting Factor” to Improve Yields

by Sirius Fourside

One of the most common questions we get asked by new cannabis growers is “How much bud can I expect to yield with my setup?”

It’s a tough question to answer accurately since there are so many variables that affect your yields. Plus, as a cannabis grower, you are the most important variable that affects your yields!

That being said, it’s a totally valid question! People can be – understandably – timid about starting to grow cannabis and they want to make sure they know what yields to expect. No one wants to invest time and money into something if they feel they won’t be happy with the results.

That’s where the “limiting factor” comes in.

In nature, a limiting factor is an environmental condition that is key in restricting the size of a population. For example, the number of healthy foxes in an area plays an important role in the rabbit population in the same area. Foxes are a limiting factor to rabbit populations, or, foxes are a factor that is limiting the maximum population of rabbits in their area.

When growing cannabis, a limiting factor is something that is key in restricting the amount of bud a grower can harvest. For example, if you grow a high-yielding strain of cannabis under a 600W LED light in a Solo cup, the Solo cup becomes a limiting factor in that it’s the main factor that’s limiting how much you can harvest.

What cannabis yields can you expect to harvest from a specific grow light or setup?

It would be tough to guess exactly how much you’re going to harvest even with detailed information about a grower’s entire setup because experience makes a huge difference. However, by identifying the limiting factor in a cannabis growing setup, we can get a good approximation of what a grower can expect for yields provided everything goes smoothly.

How This Works

In the next section, we’ll go through 5 aspects of a grow setup that have a major impact on your yields: grow space, grow lights, container, strain and plant training. Although all five of these aspects affect your yields, we only use the grow space, lights and container to give you an expected weight range for yields. I’ll explain that part a little later.

There are two very important things to keep in mind about this info:

  1. Each grower’s unique set of skills can drastically change the amount of bud harvested from a grow. This guide is meant to give you an idea of what ballpark figures to expect; they’re not set in stone!
  2. Every item in each of the topics we discuss will have a range, for example: 1oz – 10oz. The low end of that range (1oz) assumes the grow didn’t go so well and that you’re using equipment in the lower end of the range you’re in. Conversely, the high end of the range (10oz) assumes the grow went great and you’re using equipment in the upper end of your range! So, in the 1oz – 10oz example:
    1. 1oz would be close to what a grower should expect to harvest if the plant was unhealthy and grown with less-than-reliable equipment.
    2. 10oz would be close to what a grower should expect to harvest if the plant was healthy and the grower used quality equipment.

Let’s get started!

Grow Space

Your ‘Grow Space’ is the area your plants call home. This could be a grow tent, a cabinet, a closet, a PC case, a room in your house or the great outdoors! Basically, it’s the area that physically limits how big your plants can grow (with walls, fences, etc.).

Note: If you’re growing outdoors, I’m jealous and I hate you. Awww…I take it back. I could never hate you!

Stealth (PC cases, tiny cabinet grows, etc.)

  • Expected yields: Up to 1oz

Small Tents & Larger Cabinets – up to 9ft²

  • Larger than a PC case, but not larger than a 2‘x4’or 3’x3’ area
  • Taller than 4 feet
  • Expected yields: 1oz to 10oz

Hobby Level – 10ft² – 25ft²

  • Larger than 3’x3’, but no larger than a 5’x5’ space
  • Taller than 6 feet
  • Expected yields: 7oz to 2lbs

Large Tents/Rooms/Etc. – 26+ft²

  • Larger than a 5’x5’ tent
  • Taller than 6 feet
  • Now we’re nearing the ‘grow operation’ size, so the yields can vary by a wide margin as the tents turn into rooms
  • Expected yields: 2lbs+

Outdoors

  • Outdoor yields vary wildly depending on the grower, container size and the amount of growing space available. The hours of direct sunlight a plant gets each day also plays a huge factor!
  • Expected yields: A few ounces to many, many pounds

Light Size

Your grow lights provide the energy for your cannabis plants to grow big, strong and potent! Your grow bulbs produce light, your plants turn that light into energy and that energy fuels the growth of leaves, stems and buds. Generally, more light grows larger plants, but there is such a thing as too much light!

Incandescent

  • These are the old-fashioned house lights that were replaced with CFLs and LEDs.
  • NEVER USE THESE TO GROW CANNABIS!
  • Expected yields: 🙁 (yes, that’s a sad face)

Stealth lighting (

  • Usually consists of 1-4 CFLs, 1-2 smaller LEDs (1-5 household LEDs), or a T5 array
  • Expected yields: A few grams to 50g

Smaller lighting (101W – 300W)

  • Usually consists of a bunch of CFLs or a few high-powered ones, 1-3 LEDs (or an array of smaller LEDs), a T5 array, a single LEC or a single small HPS…phew!
  • Expected yields: 15g to 9oz

Medium lighting (301W – 600W)

  • At this point, the majority of all indoor lighting is LED, LEC or HPS
  • Expected yields: 5oz to 20oz

High-powered lighting (701W – 1000W+)

  • Can be LEDs, but is generally HPS lighting, especially once you get to 1000W. Commercial growers use multiple 600 or 1000W HPS lights which means the potential yields can vary greatly.
  • Expected yields: 10oz to 2lbs+

Bonus Information: Ok, now that we have some examples, here’s the general formula we use to determine what yields can be expected for each type of grow light. This is not exact in any way, but it’s a good place to start if you’re looking for a ballpark figure.

CFLs, T5s, and Other Fluorescent Lighting: 0.25g/watt
HPS, LED, LEC: 0.5g+/watt

When talking about “watts”, I mean the number of watts being pulled out of the wall by the light, not “equivalent” numbers. You’re interested in actual power draw. It’s also worth noting that the Sea of Green technique can utterly destroy these numbers!

Container

Think of the container for a cannabis plant as a hard hat. It protects the most important parts of a plant – the roots – just like hard hats protect our most important part: our brain!

And just like a hard hat (or a hat of any type, really), it’s very uncomfortable to wear one if it’s too small. Similarly, cannabis plants don’t like spaces that are too small for their root requirements. Limiting the size of a plant’s container has a direct effect on the maximum size of the plant, and thus, its maximum yields.

Note: Container size is a major limiting factor to final plant size in soil, but DWC/hydroponics containers are not counted in this group. Although root space matters in hydroponics, the rules aren’t the same and larger yields can be obtained from a relatively small space.

Solo Cup

  • Solo cups are great for stealth or people that aren’t ready to start purchasing equipment to grow. Expect plants grown in these to be tiny!
  • Expected yields: up to 1 oz.

Very Small pots (1-2 gallons)

  • Often used for the Sea of Green (SoG) technique, or as an in-between container during the transplanting process. This can also be a good pot size for someone trying to limit their plant’s growth via purposely making them rootbound.
  • Expected yields: up to 4 oz.

Small pots (3-5 gallons)

  • For mid-size grows, and smaller grow tents.
  • Expected yields: up to 10 oz.

Medium/Large pots (6+ gallons)

  • This group consists of pots that are more than 6 gallons in size, or plants that are planted in the ground with plenty of root-room.
  • Expected yields: up to many pounds

Strain

Over the years, cannabis cultivation has become a lucrative niche for some folks in addition to being a rewarding hobby. This has led to a large availability of high-potency, well-tested and high-yielding strains that available to growers all over the world.

We’ve taken a bunch of breeder-specified yield amounts and averaged them to get this range. However, you should always take breeder specified yield amounts with a moderately-sized grain chunk of salt as some breeders tend to overestimate the capabilities of their products…imagine that! In the interest of making sure this guide stays straight-forward, we won’t count the strain towards the limit if only because the information is so unreliable. We’ll give you our version of what to expect and let you make the choice!

Important: We believe your personal preferences should always take precedence over possible high-yields. Some strains are bred to be high-yielders, some are bred to be potent and some are bred to look, smell and taste great. Some strains are bred to have a bit of everything, but many strains are bred to just be excellent at one thing. Before you ever dismiss a strain due to its yields, be certain to research its effects first so you don’t pass on something great!

Low-yielding strains

  • Autos that finish fast and small, and ‘boutique’ strains can belong to this group
  • Expected yields: 0.5 oz/plant to 3.5oz/plant
  • Translation: You can expect lower amounts than ‘normal’ with these strains. Some autos can grow 15g, but other autos can yield multiple ounces. If we could make yields into simple numbers, we’d consider this group to produce 80% (0.8) compared to average yielding strains based on the median yield.

Average-yielding strains

  • Many photoperiod and some ‘super-autos’ fall into this category
  • Expected yields: 1 to 7 oz. per plant
  • Translation: Consider this the baseline for a ‘normal’ yielding plant. In our book, medium strains are what we’d consider 100%, so we give these a strain factor of 1.0 based on the median yield. You can grow any photoperiod plant as big as you like so you could definitely yield more, but we’re talking about a medium-sized plant.

High-yielding strains

  • High yields equate to higher sales for breeders, so you can expect this category to grow faster than the other two. Many strains nowadays fall into this category…or at least claim to! Remember to research and stick with good breeders!
  • Expected yields: 2 to 8+ oz. per plant
  • Translation: These strains were bred to produce lots of bud, so they typically yield from “a bit more” to “YAAAAAAAAAY. ” If we could make yields into simple numbers, we’d consider this group to produce 120% (1.2) based on the median yield.

Strain makes a huge difference when it comes to yields! These two auto-flowering plants were grown from seed to harvest in the same setup. The differences come purely from genetics! One yielded an ounce or two while the other yielded several ounces!

Training

Training is like putting your plants on an exercise regimen! This involves you training the plant into a shape that squeezes bigger yields out of your indoor grow lights while also allowing you to produce bigger yields in a smaller space. You might not be able to turn a naturally low yielding plant into a 2lb plant, but you can definitely make that little so-and-so tougher and more productive than it used to be!

Unlike the other sections, training doesn’t limit your yields to a certain amount. Rather, it builds on the traits identified in the other sections; it’s like a bonus!

No training (SoG)

  • 100%; Not training your plants means there will be no positive or negative effect on yields

Light training (light LST, single top/fim)

  • Light training can make for much better use of your indoor grow lights. You essentially are getting more out of the same amount of resources.
  • Up to 150% extra yields per plant
  • Heavy training can offer the largest return on your investment, but it also tends to be time-consuming as well as the most dangerous for plants and/or taxing on the grower. Some heavy-training methods can drastically reduce yields or even kill plants when done incorrectly. However, these same methods in the right hands can dramatically increase the amount of bud harvested.
  • -100% to 200%. In other words, ranges from dead plants to harvesting twice as much bud. It’s a gamble for beginners but with a little experience, it becomes free extra marijuana (the best kind)!

Using This Information

Alright, so let’s see this information applied to a few hypothetical cases! We’ll tell you about a made-up growing setup, then we’ll determine the limiting factor of their setup by locating the lowest maximum. The result is an estimate of what a grower could expect to harvest in an ‘average’ grow.

Find the Limiting Factor (lowest number)

  • Grow Space
  • Grow Lights
  • Container

Jim is growing cannabis in a 3-gallon pot in a 4’x4’ tent with a 216W T5 light.

  • 4’x4’ tent range group range: 7oz to 2lbs
  • 216W T5 light group range: 15g to 9oz (1.9oz in this case)
    • Note: This light is a T5 (which gets an average of 0.25g/watt) and pulls 216W out of the wall. Jim can expect about 54 grams or 1.9oz from these lights.
  • 3-gallon container group range: Up to 10 oz.

In this case, Jim’s lights have the lowest maximum and are therefore the limiting factor. Jim can expect to grow about 2oz in good conditions or more with successful training. But in order to get significantly higher yields to match the other limiting factors in his tent, Jim would need to upgrade his grow light setup.

—–
Robert has some plants growing in solo cups inside a PC case with 150W of CFLs.

  • PC case (stealth) group range: Up to 1oz
  • 150W CFL light group range: 15g to 9oz (1.3oz. in this case)
    • Side Note: These grow lights are CFLs (which get an average of 0.25g/watt) and they pull a total of 150W out of the wall. Robert can expect about 37.5 grams or 1.3oz from these lights.
  • Solo cup group range: Up to 1oz

Robert’s small container and case slightly limit his maximum yields, but overall, this is a good match (though he could go for a smaller light)! Robert can expect to grow as much as 1oz in good conditions.

—–
Kayla is growing plants in an 11’x9’ room, in an 8-gallon DWC container with a 300W LED (pulls 300W out the wall, which is it’s ‘actual power draw’.)

  • 9’x9’ grow area group range: 2lbs+
  • 300W LED light group range: 15g to 9oz (5.2oz. in this case)
    • Side Note: Because an LED gets an average of 0.5g+/watt, and this particular model pulls 300W out of the wall. Kayla can expect about 150 grams or 5.2oz
  • 8-gallon container group range: up to many pounds, especially considering it’s hydro

Kayla has the space and container for a massive grow, but her lights will hold her back. She can expect as much as 9oz in good conditions, but bigger lights could yield her much more!

—–
Stephen has his plants in a 3-gallon container in a 2’x5’ tent under a 100W incandescent bulb.

  • An incandescent bulb?! Bad, Stephen! Go to your room, stare at this picture for 5 straight minutes and think about what you’ve done!

Hopefully, this guide has helped to shed a little light on where your yields come from. Again, strains have a major impact on your yields, but until we have more reliable information, it’s best to go with strains you like and judge their performance yourself. Also, don’t forget that good training is like a potential bonus that can increase your yields in addition to our estimations!

Finally, remember that this article is just a bunch of general guidelines. We’ve seen growers with numbers that totally break our efforts at categorization and we wouldn’t have it any other way. In fact, we challenge any growers reading this to smash our numbers and force us to rethink averages! Good luck and enjoy your harvest!

What's keeping your yields low? Is it your grow light, space, nutrients, or something else? Identify the "limiting factor" and get the yields you want!

7-10-15 Gallon Pots

oscar169
Operation Dank
datDANK

i would stick with 7 gallon smart pots indoors

even outdoors 7 gallons are great for 1 month veg and 2 month flower.. ideally
if you go beyond 7 gallons your will need to veg longer

thats why its good to have a veg room with all 7 gallon ladies.. more than you will ever need

then stick what you need in the flowering room

kushtrees
oscar169
Operation Dank
BlueBlood

Whether its worth it or not depends on your plants and your opinion of them. What do the roots look like at harvest? If they’re even touching the sides or bottom, then a larger capacity is going to change their growth pattern.

I don’t do soil, but 30 days of veg in 7 gallons sounds tight to me. My instinct is that 10 would give you better results, and at the very least a comfort zone for certain headaches. 15 gallons is going to be a totally different grow, I think.

Again, I don’t do soil, and when I did, it was clones in little grow bags, so take my advice for what its worth to you. If you don’t have any kind of perpetual-type scenario going on, you might just get a 10 and 15 gallon pot and just see what happens. Then do some math at the end to see what costs you what and find out if its worth it. Worst case is that end up with 2 extra pots that you only used once taking up space somewhere.

datDANK

7 gallons = 4 oz
10 gallons= 6/8oz

7 gallons you can carry around
anything over 7 gallons should stay stationary

lex0415

7 gallons = 4 oz
10 gallons= 6/8oz

7 gallons you can carry around
anything over 7 gallons should stay stationary

I hope your not saying a 7 gallon pot will give you 4 oz at harvest and 10 gallons=6/8 oz. Please dont take offense maybe I misunderstood what you said but a 7 gallon pot with the right amount of light, temps, RH, nutes, strain, ect. will yield well over 8 oz maybe even a pound if theres enough light and all the other factors are correctly in place.

@BlueBlood- You said “30 days of veg in 7 gallons sounds tight to me”. Its very possible to go from seed to harvest (30 day veg, 60 day flower) with a 7 gallon pot, It might not be ideal depending on strain but I’ve actually seen it done in 5 gallon pots. He yielded a pound from one 600w and one 5 gallon pot with one plant. A 7 gallon pot is plenty for 1 plant thats goin 90 days from seed to harvest. Thats just from my experience and what I’ve seen.

lex0415
datDANK

7 gallons = 4 oz
10 gallons= 6/8oz

7 gallons you can carry around
anything over 7 gallons should stay stationary

oscar169
Operation Dank
BlueBlood

See? I don’t grow in soil. *shrug* The biggest containers I’ve grown single plants in are 4 and 5 gallon buckets (of water).

I’m also not a big vegger, so in flowering mode, I would be very nervous about water circulation with 3-4 months of roots. Based on this, I was guessing that they would be at least a wee root bound, and would probably benefit from a bit more breathing space. It probably makes no sense to try to compare the two since dirt doesn’t have to move around the roots. Then again, I know dirt guys that just let their roots grow out of the bottom of the pots and all over everywhere and don’t even give a shit, so hey.

lex0415

See? I don’t grow in soil. *shrug* The biggest containers I’ve grown single plants in are 4 and 5 gallon buckets (of water).

I’m also not a big vegger, so in flowering mode, I would be very nervous about water circulation with 3-4 months of roots. Based on this, I was guessing that they would be at least a wee root bound, and would probably benefit from a bit more breathing space. It probably makes no sense to try to compare the two since dirt doesn’t have to move around the roots. Then again, I know dirt guys that just let their roots grow out of the bottom of the pots and all over everywhere and don’t even give a shit, so hey.

Wouldn’t you want to go with the same veg time with them to get a comparison?

Haha thats funny how you said you know guys that let the roots grow out of the bottom and all over everywhere.

and I guess soil and hydro are completely different, but, whatever you know more bout hydro and I know more bout soil. LOL

kushtrees

you shouldnt decide your veg time by pot size, veg them until they are big enough for the space you have.

Iuno about soil either but I grew a 1.2lb plant in a 3.25g pot outside with just coco it was an accident and a crazy grow

I still dont know how big of a plant you are trying to grow, that determines pot size, not veg time. if you dnt know what you are doing and are fucking things up, then you might only need a 2g pot with 30 days veg cuz the plant wont be big at all, if you are in a prime environment and have everything dialed you can have a pretty big plant in 30 days

im with blueblood based on what ive read, veg em the same time and see if theres a difference

lex0415
BlueBlood

I did. I just figured that he’d want to be able to quantify the results he got between the different sizes. That way he could decide what’s appropriate for his circumstances.

Haha thats funny how you said you know guys that let the roots grow out of the bottom and all over everywhere.

and I guess soil and hydro are completely different, but, whatever you know more bout hydro and I know more bout soil. LOL

I saw one guy’s op in his basement when it started to flood, as it did seasonally. Fortunately, his foundation was crooked and he could keep it drained with a sump in the corner. The concrete stayed wet with swamp water on the high side where the plants were. The roots were growing out of the bottom of his pots and they looked great. They were all gorgeous, fuzzy and white and growing all over concrete damp with swamp water. Not just a little bit, mind you, some were probably 4′ or more outside of the pots. In typical old man grower fashion, he didn’t give two shits. XD

oscar169
Operation Dank
lex0415

@ Blueblood thats insane 4′ roots growing out the pot into swamp water that flooded his basement LMAO

@ oscar169 Good luck on the grow

nangonug
Premium Member

I’m going to Veg them all in the same room with the same lenght of time, (same clones from same mother), then see what the yield diff is.
I did run my room a time before with the 3 gallon pots & they were all root bound by the end of Flower. didn’t really care for 3 gallons, just to small. I’m just trying to figure out if all the money is worth the upgrade again to go to the 10 or 15 gallon.[/quote

There are a lot a variables you do not really go into in determining you pot size. A 15 gallon when properly trained and vegged can and should yeald at the very least 10 to 12 oz. If you are running one 15 gallon per 6oow light thats about right. You can run 4 plants in 5 to 7 gallons pot’s. per thousand (sixes seam a bit light for the task but work) and with little effort you should hit a lb. If you get things rocken and learn your strains then you will find the sweet spot where there getting everything with out stress. Try not to root bound them. Get them transplanted when the roots have filled up the pots and give them room to keep growing. Remember that plants send less and less energy to root production the further you go into flower. Figure 2 to 3 week of root growth once they hit the flip. This will be your best indicator of when things should happen. All things equal more root will always yeald more! I found an almost exponential increase in yeald / gallon of soil. There is a point around 20 to 30 gallon’s where the curve begins to flatten out. I’ve tryed 40 gallon’s even. Great flower size but the increase droped off considerably. My back really screamed when moving the dirt around and the veg time does take a bit longet. Coco is a different story. I flower most soil in 25 to 30 gallon smart pots and flower in 15 to 25 gallon smart pots for coco mix. If you go coco then 4 properly vegged and trained plants in 3 gallon smart pots on a tray can and should yeald well also. It takes time to learn the whens and how. The larger your grow the harder it becomes to keep up with it as well. If your dealing with limited space like in a tent I would seriously consider setting up a top drip dtw coco. You can do a lot more in less coco then in soil. You can do the same weight in 3 gallons of coco as you do in 10 gallons of soil. Plants grow a bit faster and fill out roots a bit quicker as well. Finished product is top shelf. Not quite properly grown organic quality but dam close. It takes quite a pot snob to tel the diffenence most of the time. I live in a med state and have limited numbers so size maters. If I was not so worried about plant count I would deffenitly run 4 plant’s per 1000w in 10 gallons and expect 6 to 8 off of each plant. or better yet 16 in 2 gallon pots or. The more plants you can fit into the space the less time you have to veg. Its al a mater of finding the proper timing for your chosen style . Hope I helped out best of luck.. Peace

I'm running 7 gallon Grow Pro Nursery pots right now, just got into week 5 of flower so far so good, I have been thinking about trying out the 10 gallon &…