Light Deprivation Cannabis: What Is It And How To Do It?

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Added 22 May 2023

Harnessing the sun's power for growing cannabis seems natural, and for many growers, it is the ideal approach. Apart from being natural, it is super cheap. But what do you do if your local climate prevents you from growing cannabis plants properly?

Perhaps the growing season is short, the winter arrives too early, or the autumn weather is unpredictable. Or what if you want to squeeze in one more harvest during the season or gain some control over your photoperiod plant’s growth?

You need to check out the light deprivation method. It allows you to control your cannabis plant’s growth even outdoors, so you can harvest your plants sooner before they get affected by bad weather. 

What is light deprivation or light dep cannabis, how can it benefit you, what are its cons, and how can you use it? Learn all about it in this article below. 

What is Light Dep Cannabis?

What is Light Dep Cannabis?

Light dep cannabis is a plant grown using the light deprivation method, a relatively new cultivation method. This method works by reducing the light hours your outdoor cannabis plant receives every day, which jump-starts the bloom stage early. 

On the other hand, outdoor plants will start flowering with the onset of fall, when the days get shorter. This technique tricks your plant into thinking autumn is already here, so it can start flowering sooner. Plus, this method does not require any specialized equipment, either — basic light-blocking tarps can do the trick, so growers of any level can use this technique. 

This method was developed in the 80s, but it was unknown until about a decade ago. Nowadays, this method is so effective that many growers and experts already call it the future of cannabis gardening. We will get into the benefits of light dep cannabis, but first, let’s look at how it works.

Light Deprivation in Action

The light deprivation method of growing cannabis allows you a similar control on your outdoor plant that you would otherwise get in an indoor setup with artificial grow lights. Essentially, you can tweak the flowering time and duration of your plant so you don’t have to rely on the seasons. 

Yes, it may take some extra effort, but it is worth it. 

If you grow photoperiod cannabis in a regular greenhouse or an outdoor garden, the plant will start to flower at the end of summer, when the days start to shorten. However, if you live in a location that is not so suitable for cultivating cannabis, this seasonal change can be a bad thing. In some regions, fall is also notorious for bringing along bad weather. 

But with light deprivation, you can protect your plant from that by using tarps, shades, or roll-up walls. All you have to do is cover your greenhouse or the outdoor plant with any of these light-blocking materials to reduce the light falling on your cannabis plants, which will reduce the daylight hours of your plant. This will trick the plant into flowering when you want it to.

This method works similarly to an indoor garden, where you have 100% control over the grow lights, and you can switch them to a shorter light cycle to induce flowering when you want. 

Benefits of Light Deprivation for Growing Cannabis

Benefits of Light Deprivation for Growing Cannabis

Light deprivation offers a ton of benefits to outdoor cannabis gardens, which can help you not only become a better grower but also grow more plants and produce a bigger yield. Here are some of the top benefits of light dep cannabis.

1. Speed Up Your Cannabis Cultivation 

If you live in a region where the growing season is too short or if the fall brings with it spells of bad weather, you would want to harvest your cannabis as soon as possible. So, by using the light deprivation method, you can speed up your cannabis cultivation by making your outdoor plants flower sooner, so you can harvest them way before fall. 

2. Grow Multiple Batches of Cannabis Every Season 

Another benefit of light dep cannabis is that it allows you to grow multiple batches of cannabis plants every season. Instead of relying on natural light, you can grow cannabis faster and harvest them sooner, effectively growing multiple batches subsequently. This can significantly increase your yield while letting you take full advantage of the natural weather. 

3. Enjoy the Benefits of Outdoor Cultivation while Having Control of Your Plant’s Growth 

Another benefit is that with light dep, you get immense control over your plant’s growth. A part of this can be translated into an outdoor cannabis garden with the help of the light dep method. Here, you take advantage of the natural light while regaining some control over your cannabis plant’s growth, which is always a good thing. The control only gets better when you use a greenhouse to grow light dep cannabis!

4. Better Quality

Now, you already know that light dep allows more control. Naturally, it offers higher-quality cannabis. This is because you can manage the light exposure during the flowering phase and also control various aspects of the plant's development, including the cannabinoid and terpene content, resin production, and overall potency. This control allows for the production of cannabis with desired characteristics, enhancing its market value.

5. Pest Management

Light deprivation helps prevent pests from entering your garden as you’ll be covering the plants during the light-deprivation period. In short, you’ll create a physical barrier that helps protect the crop. In addition, it also reduces the risk of diseases transmitted by insects. Needless to say, it will minimize the need for chemical interventions and promote healthier plant growth.

6. Overcome Environmental Stressors of Outdoor Growing 

Outdoor cultivation has various benefits, but it brings one major downside — the unpredictability of seasons, especially during fall. With light dep, you can avoid that by ensuring your plants are ready for harvest long before the weather turns bad. This can not only save a lot of hassle but also your entire harvest. 

7. Extends the growing season

Light deprivation allows you to extend the natural outdoor growing season. For instance, you can force the plants to flower earlier than usual and harvest multiple crops within a year, thereby increasing overall yield and profits as a commercial grower. Even if you’re a home grower, who doesn’t love harvesting multiple crops every year? This is particularly beneficial in regions with shorter summers or unpredictable weather patterns.

8. Flexible and Adaptable

Light deprivation techniques offer flexibility since you can adapt your cultivation strategies to meet market demands, capitalize on price fluctuations, or experiment with different strains and genetic varieties. As a result, you will stay competitive in a dynamic and evolving cannabis industry.

Simply put, light deprivation cannabis cultivation allows you to maximize yields, control flowering cycles, enhance quality, manage pests and diseases, adopt sustainable practices, and maintain flexibility in your operations. These benefits make it an ideal choice for cannabis cultivators aiming to optimize their production and meet the demands of your customers if you’re a commercial grower. On the other hand, home growers can utilize this technique for better yields in shorter periods of time. 

Disadvantages of Light Deprivation while Growing Cannabis

Disadvantages of Light Deprivation while Growing Cannabis

The benefits of light deprivation while growing cannabis are undeniable, but there are some downsides to this method as well. Here are some of the cons of light dep cannabis:

1. Shorter Vegetative Stage Leading to Smaller Plants

By depriving the plants of light, you are forcing your outdoor cannabis plant to flower early, but as a result, you are shortening its vegetative stage. And a shorter vegetative stage means the plant won’t have enough time to grow as big as it would have, leading to smaller plants. As you can see, light dep cannabis cultivation can put you in a catch-22 situation. 

2. More Chances of Light Leaks 

When you cover your plants for light deprivation, you must constantly ensure the plants are hidden and under darkness. Even small light leaks during this time can make your plant’s transition to the flowering stage harder and lead to problems like hermaphroditism

3. More Heat and Humidity in the Garden

Depending on your local climate, covering your cannabis plant with a tarp or something else may lead to higher temperatures or relative humidity for the plant. This can create problems like heat stress or mold if you are not careful enough and don’t take care of the situation on time. 

One way to deal with the additional heat and light is to use fans in your garden, which can also be labor-intensive and lead to higher energy bills.

We already mentioned that depriving your cannabis plants of light can help with pest management at times. However, one issue is that it can also create an environment suitable for certain unwelcome guests. The reduced airflow and increased humidity beneath the tarps can be a cozy haven for insects and diseases. It's like throwing a private garden party for uninvited visitors, so you need to remain vigilant and employ effective pest management strategies to protect your precious crops.

4. It Takes a Lot of Effort

For this method to work, you need to be consistent every day. You need to cover and uncover your plants at the same time every day until they harvest, which is a test of labor and time. This can be physically and mentally exhausting, as you must be vigilant and dedicated to providing optimal light conditions for your plants. You can automate this, but it comes with additional costs and maintenance. Unless you are prepared to take on this challenge, you should avoid this method. 

Also, implementing light deprivation techniques may require investing in specialized infrastructure, such as light-blocking materials and blackout curtains, to regulate light exposure. Of course, these investments can pay off in the long run, but they can initially strain your financial resources. 

5. Does Not Work on Autoflowering Cannabis

Autoflowering cannabis does not rely on the light cycle to grow; they work on an internal genetic clock to transition from the vegetative stage to the flowering stage. Since autos don’t respond to light, using light deprivation techniques for autoflowering cannabis is pointless. 

6. Unpredictable Weather Issues

Mother Nature has a mischievous side, and she loves to throw us cannabis growers off balance at times. Although light deprivation allows for more control over the growing season, it doesn't shield you from the whims of the weather. Unforeseen storms, extreme temperature fluctuations, or even an uncooperative cloud cover can disrupt carefully planned flowering cycles and affect crop yields and quality. 

Also, remember that, unlike indoor cultivation, which allows you to control light as and when you want, light deprivation relies heavily on natural sunlight. This reliance on an external light source makes you susceptible to factors beyond your control, such as cloudy days, extended periods of rain, or shorter daylight hours during certain seasons. You’re at the mercy of the sun god, and you may find yourself often anxiously praying for favorable climate conditions.

That said, despite these challenges, skilled growers who are up for the adventure can navigate the drawbacks of light deprivation cannabis cultivation. While it may involve some late-night tarp shuffling and require you to overcome the whims of nature, the rewards of higher yields, quality control, and extended growing seasons make the journey well worth it for those willing to embrace the wild side of cannabis cultivation.

Do You Need a Greenhouse for Light Deprivation?

Do You Need a Greenhouse for Light Deprivation?

Many growers new to the light dep method think that this method only works for greenhouses, and it’s easy to see why one would think that. Greenhouses are easier to cover with tarps since they have a lot of supports, such as roofs and walls. 

However, you don’t need a greenhouse or a polytunnel for light dep. Any outdoor plant can be grown with the light dep method, you may just have to get a bit creative. For example, you can build a frame around your plant to hang the tarp or use a clothesline. Or, as mentioned earlier, you can even use a large garbage bin to cover your plant. 

Some growers also use light dep for their windowsill cannabis. This means that instead of covering the plant, you just need to move your plant to a dark room daily to deprive it of light. 

How is Light Dep Cannabis Different from Indoor and Outdoor Cannabis?

How is Light Dep Cannabis Different from Indoor and Outdoor Cannabis?

We are all aware of the difference between indoor and outdoor cannabis cultivation — the difference is massive. Even recent studies have shown that both types of cannabis can be drastically different from one another

Indoor cannabis tends to have higher THC levels but may contain anxiety-inducing THCA, too. On the other hand, outdoor cannabis has richer terpene production and contains less THCA. 

But when you add light depreciation to the mix, things get confusing. It’s a blend of indoor and outdoor cannabis. While there are no current studies to throw light on anything, experts believe that light dep cannabis is largely similar to outdoor cannabis. However, in controlled greenhouses, it can be more akin to indoor cannabis. 

However, there are some clear differences apart from the quality of the yield. The first difference is the cultivation time. Light dep cannabis and indoor cannabis can be cultivated year-round, but outdoor cannabis can only grow during the growing season. Additionally, both indoor and light dep cannabis allow multiple harvests during a single season. 

In terms of yield, indoor cannabis gives the biggest yield with higher quality, but outdoor cannabis is believed to be the most natural way of growing cannabis. Here, light dep cannabis gives smaller yields due to smaller plant sizes, but if you grow multiple batches, the overall yield during the year can be 2 to 3 times the regular yield. 

As for the money involved, regular outdoor cultivation is the cheapest. Growing cannabis indoors and in greenhouses can get expensive, depending on the growing method you use, and light-dep cannabis can be slightly costly but not as much as an indoor setup. Indoor setups require various equipment, especially grow lights, that take up the bulk of the money. 

How to Set Up Light Deprivation for Cannabis?

How to Set Up Light Deprivation for Cannabis?

Setting up basic light deprivation is easy — as easy as covering your car with a car cover — but it largely depends on how many plants you have. But regardless of the size of your garden, you first need to get yourself a cover that’s 100% light-proof. 

The cover can be of any material, but the most common material is a tarp or plastic sheet. Whichever material you choose, ensure it is thick, light-proof, and withstand everyday weather. If you have small cannabis plants, you can even use black plastic bins of a suitable size. Alternatively, you can move your cannabis plant to a dark place, too, like a garden shed or your garage. Just make sure the space is completely light-proof. 

Once you have the right cover for your cannabis plant, follow these tips to grow light dep cannabis. 

1. Plan Everything in Advance

Even before you start growing cannabis, you must have a plan ready all the way to the harvest. You must factor in some things, such as your cannabis strain, its growth time, its sensitivity to light, etc., and prepare a plan accordingly. 

You must also plan other factors of light deprivation, such as when and how you will cover your plants, how to ensure they stay in the dark during dark hours, how to avoid disturbances or accidental light exposures, etc. 

All of this may seem too hypothetical or theoretical right now, but it is worth having at the beginning. It helps you manage your expectations and have a rough guideline on what to do in case things go wrong. 

2. Know Your Plant’s True Size

An important aspect that many growers overlook is just how tall their cannabis plants can grow. Your plant may seem small during the initial stage of growth, even during the vegetative stage, but it can grow twice its size in the early flowering stage. 

Know how tall your strain of cannabis tends to grow during the flowering stretch to get a rough idea of its true height. Take this into account when choosing the best method to cover your cannabis plant, whether it is with garbage bins or tarps — they should be big enough to cover your plant even after the flowering stretch. 

3. Cover Your Plants at the Right Time

Next, you need to figure out when to start covering your plants. 

So, depending on where you live, you must figure out when the winter is expected to come and when the weather will turn unsuitable for your cannabis plant. Then, factor in your cannabis strain’s flowering time. Compare the two, and you’ll have a rough idea of when you need to force your cannabis plant to start flowering. 

For example, in most European regions, cannabis plants receive around 12.5 hours of light in September, and the days get shorter during winter and only last for 7 to 9 hours. Here, outdoor cannabis plants will generally be ready for harvest between October and November. In that case, you would have to force your plant to start flowering by July so that they are ready for harvest at the right time. 

Then, you need to decide when to cover your plants. You can either cover your plants early in the evening or the morning, as long as you can give your plant at least 12 hours of light. 

4. Be Consistent 

You must be consistent. Even minor changes in the light cycle can stress out your plant and stunt its transition to the flowering stage. In severe cases, mistakes can lead to your plant re-vegging or turning into a hermie — both of which must be avoided to maintain the quality of your plant’s yield. 

5. Be Careful 

You must also be super careful. In warmer regions, light dep can increase the chances of mold or heat stress on your plant, so you must take the right measures to avoid it. As mentioned earlier, you can use table fans to regulate humidity and temperature in the garden when your plants are covered. 

If growing cannabis is frowned upon where you live, you may want to consider relocating your plant indoors instead of covering it, as it can arouse suspicion and attract unwanted attention. It is best to avoid this method if growing cannabis in your country can land you in legal trouble. 

6. Consider Automating the Process

Lastly, if you can, you should consider automating the process of covering and uncovering your cannabis plants. Doing this daily can be a hassle and sometimes become downright difficult if you have other commitments. So, automating it can minimize your work and, at the same time, minimize the chances of error that may occur when life gets in the way. 

What is the Best Type of Cannabis Seeds for Light Deprivation?

What is the Best Type of Cannabis Seeds for Light Deprivation?

You need photoperiod cannabis seeds for the light deprivation method to work. This is because autoflowering seeds do not respond to the light cycle and will not respond to light dep, either. 

On the other hand, photoperiod cannabis strains will switch to flowering as soon as the light cycle is shortened. This signals the plant that winter is near, so it starts flowering as a response to it. 

Additionally, you should also choose seeds that are fast-growing and vigorous. Remember, one of the downsides of light dep weed is that, due to the shorter vegetative stage, the plants don’t grow as big since they don’t have much time to put on weight. So, a slow-growing strain will not grow big at all under light dep. 

You want your cannabis plant to grow big as soon as possible so you can switch it to the flowering stage early without inviting a big loss. And it goes without saying, always choose cannabis strains that are suitable for your local climate and growing style. 

Some of the best seeds for light dep include Super Skunk Feminized, Strawberry Cough Feminized, Blue Dream, Gorilla Glue #4, Green Crack, and Purple Punch. 

What Does Light Dep Cannabis Yield Look Like?

What Does Light Dep Cannabis Yield Look Like?

Coming to the most important question concerning light dep cannabis — what does the yield look like? The answer is it depends. 

In most cases, the yield is high quality, thanks to the highly controlled environment and consistent maintenance. But don’t expect any drastic changes in the quality as opposed to conventionally grown cannabis. The differences are minor yet noticeable.

On the flip side, the number of buds will be smaller since your plant will vegetate for a shorter time. But depending on how long you let it flower and your local weather, the buds may as well be bigger and bushier, with higher THC concentrations. 

However, many variables come into play when growing cannabis with the light deprivation method. It all depends on how well you maintain your plant, the strain you choose, the method you use, and various other factors. It is best to try this method for yourself and see the results. 

Summary: Light Deprivation Cannabis: What Is It And How To Do It?

The light deprivation method was born in Humboldt, the center for craft cannabis, in the late 1980s. It was called for when cannabis growers realized they would squeeze in one more harvest during the growing season for increased yields (and profits). 

Over the years, this method grew increasingly in popularity and is now coming to the forefront of cannabis cultivation. In fact, many growers and experts believe this is the next big step in the cannabis cultivation industry. 

So, if you want to stay ahead of the curve, increase your yields, or simply protect your plant from winter and grow high-quality buds, use this article as a guide to start growing cannabis with the light deprivation method. 

It is an easy-to-use method, although it requires commitment and some labor, but it is a labor of love. The results will be worth it. 


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