Low Stress Training is essentially any technique for training your marijuana plants that does not cause them stress in the way that something like topping or pruning could. Like most techniques for improving yields, Low Stress Training’s main goal is providing as much light exposure to the plants as possible.
As a yield-boosting training method, LST allows growers to make the most of their available space and light. At its simplest, this training technique involves gently bending and tying down cannabis plant branches and stems.
We do this for two reasons: First, cannabis normally grows one large main stem that develops one large, elongated cola. This exists alongside other, smaller side-branches with smaller buds to suit. The natural tendency for cannabis to grow into this “Christmas tree” shape is known as apical dominance. With LST, the goal is to break this apical dominance, instead flattening out the canopy to grow at the same height.
The inverse square law states that the light’s intensity radiating from its point source is inversely proportional to the square of the distance from the light. For marijuana cultivators, all this means is that the superior light is at the apex of the marijuana plants (if the lights are situated above). Lower branches get a far lower quality of light, which can severely diminish their potential.
This is great for outdoor plants as they are exposed to sunlight. The sun rises and sets each day, which means your plants receive light from the sides. However, this natural shape isn’t ideal if you grow indoors and use artificial lights.
Low Stress Training techniques typically involve pulling the plant in a downward direction so that it grows more laterally and exposed the lower branches to more light (and light intensity). Bud formation will increase on these branches, resulting in a higher yield for each plant and each watt of light. In the end, you get more bud for less bucks. Downoad my free grow guide at this link for more tip & tricks.
How to Grow Weed Using Low Stress Training
Although Low Stress Training techniques are meant to minimize stress, some growers still use a mixture of Low Stress Training and topping. To do this, you have to start by topping the plant (cutting or pinching out the tip of new growth on each plant just under the end node). Removing the tip will create two or more new shoots where the remaining stump once was. When these shoots have grown in, they can also be topped. Topping usually first occurs after the first month of vegetative growth when there are around 4 or 5 nodes on the plant. You can continue topping indefinitely while the plant stays in vegetative state, but excess topping can cause undue stress on the plant. Most growers top about two to three times. Topping is great as a way to maintain shortness and bushiness in your plants. It will also create multiple colas instead of just one.
Once you’ve topped your marijuana plant and have a number of healthy shoots growing upward, you will want to pull the branches back, downward, and then outward. You can attach the branched with anything from strings, wires, retractable lanyards, and pipe cleaners. Using an elastic band in the middle of two strings can create built-in tension that produces constant pressure on the branches. To keep the strings in place, you can attach them to the pot with screws or simple duct tape. The strings need to be padded where they touch the plant so that they don’t cut into it. Don’t get in a hurry to train them. Use a slow and steady pace. You should gradually start to increase tension on the strings when the marijuana plant starts to grow. The lower branches should be receiving more light along with the upper branches. The light and light intensity should be the same for every portion of the plant. The tied down shoot will start growing upwards as normal, but remains below the other branches.
That being said, there’s no real reason to top your plant prior to doing this. You can still bend an un-topped plant with only one growing tip and train it to grow low either in a circular manner in a pot or along the outdoor soil. This is similar to a gallery tree that you would see in the woods. A tree will fall and then its side branches start to grow upward, creating a brand new row of trees. Training the plant to grow along the ground will force the side branches to grow vertically and create brand new growing tips and colas.
Are All Varieties of Weed Suited to Low Stress Training?
Virtually all varieties of marijuana will adapt to Low Stress Training. More growers prefer indicas because they can improve growth on normally underproductive side branches. Sativas are also great choices if they have enough space. Their inherently sturdy lateral branching can create outstanding yields.
Does LST work on autoflowering strains?
Autoflowering strains are generally bred to produce one main cola and a few small, nearly negligible side buds, but this is not necessarily the most optimal way to grow. LST can be used to give these side buds more light and really beef them up. Autoflowering strains still have a short vegetative period during which training will not bother them at all, so LST is fine as long as you start really early.
What are the best strains for LST?
In case you need some recommendations regarding strains that are suitable for LST culture, we strongly advise picking one of the species below.
[Updated, originally published 17.2.2017]
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