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How To Perform Low Stress Training On Cannabis For Better Yields

Low stress training (LST) is a growing technique that involves manipulating the shape of cannabis plants to produce better yields. It’s easy, and can actually be a lot of fun to do! Read on to learn how to LST like a pro!

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Even if you don’t have a lot of cannabis growing experience under your belt, you should still consider giving low stress training a try. Low stress training (LST for short) is a simple and methodical way to increase your yield while controlling the height and shape of your plants.

WHAT IS LOW STRESS TRAINING AND WHY DO WE DO IT?

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.

This brings us to the second reason behind LST: better light distribution. By bending and securing plants in a way that breaks apical dominance and evens the height of the canopy, all areas of the plant will be exposed to greater light distribution, thus creating more viable buds sites and larger yields at the end! Not only that, but LST doesn’t even require you to alter your growing setup to achieve great results. All you need is some know-how and a few essential tools.

THE HISTORY OF LOW STRESS TRAINING

If you’re familiar with growing cannabis, you’ll know that plants normally develop a few fat buds toward the top of the plant, with several smaller buds below. This is not only true of cannabis, but many other flowers, fruits, and veggies used by humans.

Over centuries, horticulturists have devised ways to get more out of their plants using simple training techniques. These techniques can involve topping and pruning plants, as well as bending, ScrOG, and all manner of other methods. Although they all differ slightly, each one ensures optimal use of light, space, and resources.

Low stress training is a modern variant of an old technique used to force fruiting trees to grow in a flat structure. The ancient Egyptians are thought to have used similar methods to grow fig trees horizontally more than 3,000 years ago. A method known as espalier then became very popular in 17th century Europe, and made espaliered (ie. carefully trimmed and shaped) hedgerows of fruit trees a common sight. The practice was also widely used in apple and pear orchards—not just for better harvests, but more so as a way to beautify the landscape.

LST: A TRAINING TECHNIQUE THAT YOUR CANNABIS PLANTS WON’T MIND

A key element of this training technique lies plainly in its name; “low stress” is what separates this method from “high stress” techniques like topping. Whereas the latter technique involves cutting off the plant’s main growing tip in an effort to redistribute growth hormone, LST is much gentler. Not only does this decrease the risk of over-stressing your plant, but it means less time spent waiting for your plant to recover and adapt to high stress changes. With LST, there’s no inherent pruning or trimming, although this method is often used alongside other, more severe tek. All in all, plants that undergo LST respond very favourably, and will reward you for your efforts and finesse with healthy, hefty yields of huge buds.

WHAT YOU NEED FOR LST

To properly perform LST on your plants, you need the following equipment:

  • Rubber-coated plant wire/soft plant ties
  • Thin wooden/bamboo stakes
  • Small hand drill
  • Duct tape

Although this method requires little supplies, we seriously advise against using regular string to hold down your plants. Regular string or wire is often too thin or harsh, and will cut into the stems and do more harm than good. It’s much better to seek out special plant ties suited for the job.

PREPARE YOUR CONTAINER FOR LST

We keep referring to tying down stems and branches, but to where?! All you need to do is drill several holes around the rim of your growing container. Now you can loop the ties through the holes and around the branches to hold the shoots securely in place.

For even more support options, some thin wooden or bamboo stakes with a length of about 30cm work great to hold everything in place. And lastly, because accidents can happen when we’re bending branches, get some duct tape so you can patch up any snaps or breaks.

HOW TO LST YOUR CANNABIS PLANTS

Let’s get to the interesting bits: how to LST your cannabis plants!

BREAK APICAL DOMINANCE

To start, it’s all about breaking that apical dominance. Begin by bending your main stem gently down toward the rim of the container. Using the soft plant wire and the pre-drilled holes, securely tie the stem in place. Ta da! You’ve just flattened the canopy and made way for future, horizontal growth. This way, light will reach many more buds sites, which in turn will result in a greater yield.

Tips: Some growers choose to first top the main stem, then bend the secondary shoots out to the side. This way, the plant will take on more of a “spider” shape. But even if you’re performing standard LST—without topping—you may want to consider some light defoliation to increase light penetration.

SHAPE AND MAINTAIN YOUR PLANTS

One thing to keep in mind with LST is that you always want to maintain a flat canopy, so no one branch is taller than the other. When it comes to shaping, it’s important to bend shoots outward and away from the main stem. This isn’t rocket science per se, but it is helpful to have a desired shape in mind rather than just winging it. Even this can work, but beginners are better off doing some basic planning to avoid any pitfalls.

Moreover, sometimes accidents can happen, say if you accidentally snap a branch as you’re bending it. No reason to freak out! Plants are actually more robust than one may think. As long as a branch hasn’t entirely come off, you can always fix such mishaps with some duct tape. It will take a week or so to heal, but it won’t be the end of the world.

Likewise, know that LST isn’t something you do once and then you’re done. This technique requires consistent upkeep. The reason for this is that your plant will keep growing regardless of what shape you’ve moulded it into. In time, shoots will grow and leaves will get larger. For this reason, you’ll want to re-adjust your bends once in a while to make sure the canopy stays nicely even.

WHERE AND WHEN TO LST

Some people think LST is for indoor growers only—but this is far from true! Don’t forget, plant training isn’t exactly new, and it began as an outdoor method to boot. If you live in a colder climate such as the UK and other parts of Northern Europe, outdoor LST can be a good way to increase yield during the summer season, even if you’re not blessed with much sunshine. Likewise, LST can also be a helpful tool to keep your outdoor cannabis plants low-profile. A plant that you tied down for a flatter canopy won’t just give you better yields, but will also draw less attention compared to a towering weed plant somewhere out in the wild, just waiting to be discovered!

As for when you should start with LST, the answer here is: as soon as possible. Once your plant is comfortably in its vegetative stage, it will be primed and ready for manipulation. You don’t want to go too early before the plant has established a few good nodes, but you also don’t want to wait around. There is only one time where LST can be genuinely problematic, and this is when your plant is already into full flowering. At this stage, the plant’s stems may be too rigid to bend, and you risk potentially snapping a branch holding your precious buds. This aside, however, you can start LST at pretty much any time during the vegetative phase. The earlier the better.

WHAT ABOUT LST AND AUTOFLOWERS?

Can you LST autoflowers? Absolutely!

Autoflowers grow quickly and don’t require a change in light cycle to initiate flowering, meaning they don’t have much time to recover from high stress training methods like topping and defoliation. With LST, however, plants can still benefit from the optimal light exposure, and they won’t need time to recover since it doesn’t cause any real damage. Although the autos of old likely would not hold up well to LST, the new generation is more than capable of handling it.

In fact, LST can be a great way to boost the yield of your autoflowering ladies! Just know that autos will go into flowering after about 4 weeks, so you should have already made up your mind whether you want to LST them or not! Get started as early as possible for best results.

Here are the top 5 strains to utilise the LST method with:

CHOCOLATE HAZE

Chocolate Haze is an absolute treat for the taste buds, with hints of chocolate, sweetness, and earthiness lighting up the tongue when smoked or vaped. The unique terpene profile within the flowers was gifted to this strain via the breeding of parent strains OG Chocolate Thai and Cannalope Haze. Chocolate Haze is a sativa-dominant lady that features 95% sativa genetics and just 5% indica genetics. This results in a potent high that is cerebral, motivating, and very energising. Fuelled by a THC content of 20%, this high takes hold fast, and is often the source of some very interesting and deep conversations.

Chocolate Haze can be grown successfully both indoors and outdoors, and is a strong contender for the LST method. Indoor plants cultivated within grow rooms or tents are capable of rewarding growers with yields of between 475–525g/m². Outdoor plants grown within garden beds or pots are able to produce harvests of up to 500g/plant, and are ready for harvest during late October. Chocolate Haze favours a mild climate and features a flowering time of 9–10 weeks.

Want to increase your yield? Click to learn how to perform Low Stress Training (LST) on your cannabis plants, then watch them pump out copious amounts of bud!

Training and topping to improve yield

In this guide, we’ll look at how low stress training (LST) is used to increase flower production in cannabis. Then we’ll show you step by step how to combine topping, training and pruning to maximize your yield. This is a must-know for farmers who want to grow more weed.

What is apical dominance?

Apical dominance is a tendency, found in many plants, to put the majority of their energy into the top-most growth. In natural settings, it helps them reach precious sunlight in crowded environments. It’s also what gives cannabis its natural Christmas tree shape, with one large bud growing out of top (the cola) and much smaller buds on the side branches.

How do you break apical dominance?

THe key to breaking a plants tendency towards putting all their energy into the topmost growth is to change what is ‘top-most’. A simple way to do that is to pull the cola down so that it is no longer the top-most part of the plant. This will cause the side branches to now be the top-most and the plant will divert energy from the cola to the side branches – which will in turn shift their growth in the direction of the new up.

This process of breaking apical dominance is called ‘Low Stress Training’ because it doesn’t involve harming the plant. Topping & FIM’ing are higher stress techniques to break apical dominance because they require cutting the plants growth tips, often causing the plant to stop growing for several days. This is why higher stress techniques are not recommended for fast auto-flowering strains, which need all the vegetative growth time they can get. LST is generally a safe way to increase yields for all strains.

How do I train cannabis?

Vegetating cannabis plants are very flexible and can be trained over time to grow in the direction you want them to. To do this, Use plastic coated wire or twine that won’t cut into the plant and tie a loop around the plant’s stem and connect the other end to an anchor point. Most commonly, farmer’s use the pot as the anchor point. This is a good idea, since it moves with the plant.

If you are tying your plant down, only apply gentle pressure on your plant or you might snap a branch off. A good way to avoid this is to only move the plant a little at a time by tightening the tie downs a little each day until you have it where you want it.

Why should I train cannabis?

There are lots of reasons to train cannabis, the best of which is that it can drastically increase your yields. Instead of one huge bud at the top, you get many big buds. The new shape works better for indoor grow lights and results in a higher overall yield. This is magnified even further when combined with topping.

For indoor grows, especially home-growers, training is an important step for making the best use of your grow space. Some cannabis plants get extremely tall – up to 20′ (6.6m) tall – so you will need a way to control both vertical and horizontal growth.

When should I train cannabis?

You can train cannabis throughout the adult vegetative state and into early flowering. Young seedlings should be left to grow for the first 3 to 4 weeks. Flowering plants turn rigid and are more likely to snap under pressure. As a rule of thumb, its best to do all the training in the vegetative phase and have your plant trained the way you want before you put it into flower.

Read more about the stages of life for cannabis in the lifecycle guide.

LST+Pruning+Topping Technique

The very best way to improve the yields of a home grow is to combine low stress training with topping and pruning. Follow the 4 steps below and you can easily quadruple your yield. Visit our topping guide to learn all about topping and FIM’ing.

Step 1: Top Once

Topping the plant breaks apical dominance by removing the top growth tip, causin the plant to divert all of that energy into side branching. Effectively, this step results forking the plant’s main growth stem into two.

For pruning, I really love these shears.

Step 2: Top again

Repeating the process will result in more forks in the main growth stems. Lower branches will also begin growing larger than they would have if the plant had not been topped.

Can I top or FIM Side Branches?

Yes. Cutting or pinching side branches will cause them to fork just like it does to the cola. The overall effect will be a bushier plant with even more bud sites.

Step 3: Tie Down Growth Tips

Even though all the bud sites on the plant will perform better due to topping the main cola, there’s still more we can do to pump them up larger. In order to expose lower sites to more light and air, we will tie down the top-most growth tips.

Use light gauge, plastic coated garden wire to tie down the plant’s branches. If the wire isn’t plastic coated, it will likely cut into the plant.

This is a continual process, as new bud sites reach up into the air just tie them down so they are even or below the canopy height. Tying the tallest growth down will expose new sites to light and air and continue encouraging it to spread energy evenly across the sites. In the end, you want an even canopy across the top to make best use of indoor grow lights.

Step 4: Prune Lower Growth

This step is optional, but will help improve your overall yield. Lower bud sites don’t get a lot of air or light, so they tend to produce loose cotton-like buds without a lot of THC. Removing the small bud sites from the bottom of the plant allows the plant to divert that energy to the bud sites at the top of the canopy.

Cutting off bud sites to improve yield sounds counter intuitive, but these sites don’t produce high quality bud and are often discarded or thrown into the shake bucket at harvest anyway. Its better to remove those sites early so that the plant can concentrate on energy on the sites that do get plenty of light and air.

The secondary benefit of pruning the lower sites is that it improves airflow, even in a crowded grow-space, since it allow the air to circulate under the canopy.

Step 5: Bigger Yields!

This multi-step technique produces documented results in increasing yields for indoor grows,which is why most farmers use it. It can be scary to cut or bend your plant, but its worth it in the end. Cannabis plants in the vegetative phase are extremely robust and can come back from almost anything. If a farmer’s goal is to maximize yields, then this one is a must-do.

These LSD plant (left) and Acapulco Gold (right) – both strains by seed breeder Barney’s Farm – have been topped multiple times, and were trained to produce a flat canopy with multiple large colas each. These plants produced 6 ounces each of high quality bud after 60 days vegging and 65 days of flowering.

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Training and topping to improve yield In this guide, we’ll look at how low stress training (LST) is used to increase flower production in cannabis. Then we’ll show you step by step how to combine ]]>