What is the Sea of Green Method?

by | Oct 19, 2019

Written by Jessica McKeil

Jessica McKeil is a cannabis writer and B2B content marketer living in British Columbia, Canada. Her focus on cannabis tech, scientific breakthroughs, and extraction has led to bylines with Cannabis & Tech Today, Terpenes and Testing, Analytical Cannabis, and Grow Mag among others She is the owner and lead-writer of Sea to Sky Content, which provides content and strategy to the industry’s biggest brands.

The sea of green growing method compresses the plant's vertical growth by reducing the time spent in a vegetative state. It forces cannabis into flower early, much earlier than would be expected under normal growing conditions. The sea of green method yield per plant is smaller than with other indoor cultivation techniques, but with more plants in the grow room, SOG leads to higher yields per total harvest.

The Basic Sea of Green Method

The primary goal of the sea of green cultivation technique is to pump out short flower-focused plants within a much shorter time frame than would be expected if the plants grew under normal conditions. It is called the sea of green method because, when appropriately executed, it creates a wall-to-wall visual of green canopy space.

The technique is usually started from clones or cuttings, not from seed (again saving time in a tight growing schedule). Not all varieties work for sea of green growing. Growers are wise to select strains with short flowering periods and shorter genetics.

Potted cannabis cuttings are arranged extremely close together in this method of cultivation. The size of the containers and the spacing between them will depend on the ultimate vision for the grow room. Keep in mind that the larger the vessels and the more space between them, the longer the time is needed for the plants to fill out the canopy. The smaller the pots, the shorter the time required for the vegetative stage.

The 18/6 light schedule of the vegetative stage is cut extremely short during the sea of green method of growing. Depending on the strain and set up, it could be as short as three days. Some cultivators may stick with the vegetative light schedule for as long as two weeks. Either way, considering the natural vegetative cycle can be up to eight weeks, SOG techniques require an extremely compressed veg period.

Growers switch into a forced flower light schedule (12/12) as soon as there is complete canopy coverage, and the sea of green visual has been achieved. Generally speaking, the sea of green technique produces a single large flower, instead of multiple smaller side flowers (as you would expect in a screen of green, or SCROG, set up).


Benefits of the Sea of Green Method for Indoor Cultivators

It can be hard to wrap your head around the reasoning behind a sea of green method. Why stunt the plant's potential growth and reduce its flowering in such an extreme manner? It seems illogical, especially for those used to growing without space restrictions.

It's an extremely popular method of cultivation, especially among indoor commercial operations, because it maximizes yield within restricted spaces. It increases the profitability of a commercial facility and ensures a near-continuous crop.

With the SOG method, growers can pack more pounds of product into a space, and can then turn that product out faster than any other method used in commercial operations. Furthermore, some cultivators stack their crops vertically for even better use of the grow space.

In a conventional grow room, this set up wouldn't produce bountiful harvests because the plants would quickly outgrow their containers. There would be no light penetration into the dense canopy, and likely issues with airflow. Densely packed foliage, with no airflow or light, would create disease and pest-ridden situations.

SOG keeps the plants extremely short, so short that light continues to penetrate even after plants have reached maturity. This method keeps even densely packed plants largely free from disease and focused on a single large flower. With such a short time to harvest, there is also less time for disease or pests to get established.

Commercial growers favor this technique because even if the harvests are smaller on a per-plant basis, the grower can get more out of a total crop. Plus, they can produce more on an annual basis than if they stuck to more conventional growing schedules.

What is the Best Sea of Green Method?

Determining the best sea of green method is more about understanding the restrictions of space and time. The most critical choice is strain selection. Shorter growing varieties and established strains are best suited for SOG. Finding stable strains means the cuttings will grow at consistent rates, to form a uniform canopy, which is crucial for the success of this method.

Another consideration is time constraints. The shorter the time you have to reach harvest, the smaller the mature plants. Smaller plants mean more plants are needed to achieve maximum coverage. On the other hand, if you increase the container size, you'll need to increase the time spent in the vegetative stage to create complete canopy coverage. Look at your schedule and plan accordingly.

Hydroponic systems also work well when combined with a sea of green cultivation methods, because many hydroponic systems work well in tight spaces. Deepwater culture may be the only exception because it takes up more space than other options like flood and drain, nutrient film technique, and basic dripper systems.

Larger Yields in Short Time, Some of the Benefits of SOG

With such tight margins, commercial growers are focused on increasing yields and pumping out more harvests than ever before. Sea of green fits into this mandate by shortening growing times and packing more plants into a single grow room than other methods.

Knowing the characteristics of strain and having a solid basis in indoor cultivation are crucial to the success of SOG. Growers must predict how the strain will grow to ensure proper spacing and lighting transitions for increased yield.

In the days of old, the sea of green method may not have made commercial sense, when cannabis was getting thousands of dollars per pound, and space restrictions were minimal. Now, with the price per pound bottoming out, growers have to focus on getting as much out of a restricted space as possible, and then continue to do that on repeat. The sea of green method makes more sense than ever.