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Marijuana laws and regulations have changed dramatically over the last several years. While it is now legal to grow cannabis crops at home, restrictions apply to how many plants a single household can cultivate. This means getting the most out of your legal limits is crucial. For commercial growers, maximizing yields while minimizing costs and effort just makes good business sense.
Scientists and self-made experts have developed dozens of methods for boosting bud production, growing more plants in less space, and other helpful aspects. Many of them are effective, but some strategies place too much strain on the marijuana plants. Others are far too stressful for growers. Certain measures simply cost more than the payout is worth.
With low-stress training for marijuana plants, you can get the highest possible level of bud production without subjecting your plants to undue harm. At the same time, this yield-boosting strategy does not significantly increase your workload or budget. It is a safe, easy, and effective alternative to high-stress techniques.
What is Low-Stress Training?
Traditionally, each cannabis plant has one primary bud site and a few smaller ones. The main bud site is usually the uppermost portion of the plant that receives the lightest. Secondary bud sites receive a bit less light than their larger counterparts, so their buds grow smaller.
In low-stress training, the goal is to spread around the light a little more evenly to create multiple sites for large buds to grow. You do this by gently coercing the plant and its various branches to grow in specific directions. They will still reach up toward the light, but they will branch out more to give each other better access to the light they need for photosynthesis and bud production to occur.
Exploring the Benefits of Low-Stress Training
One of the most significant advantages of low-stress training for marijuana plants is the dramatic increase in large buds. Since more branches get exposed to optimal lighting, an increased number of potential bud sites develop. Those buds will often be denser as well. Of course, that is just the tip of the iceberg.
- Ramped-up Potency: When placed under stress, plants’ defense mechanisms spring into action. Prolonged periods of high stress will have a negative impact on growth and production, but the mild strain of this training technique ramps up plants’ natural defenses at just the right levels. As a result, you will have highly potent buds that are rich in THC.
- Greater Height Control: Some cannabis strains can grow to impressive heights while others seem to have a mind of their own and grow erratically. Using LST allows you to control how tall the plants grow, so you can keep them away from prying eyes. This is especially useful when growing in states where the laws are not in favor of growing recreationally such as Tennessee. Training can also prevent certain plants and branches from being starved of light, and even add a decorative appeal to your marijuana garden.
- Simpler Harvest: With traditional growing techniques, the buds closest to the light source are usually the first to appear, and they are ready for harvest before the rest. From there, secondary buds ripen at varying intervals. Keeping up with progress can be difficult. LST gives all buds equal exposure to light, so most of the buds are ready to gather at about the same time.
- Better Mold Control: Marijuana needs high levels of water and humidity to thrive. Unfortunately, extra moisture increases the chance of mold growth and other pathogens. Spreading out the canopy of your weed crop allows for better airflow, and this reduces the risk of mold destroying your buds.
- Fewer Adjustments: Cannabis plants require certain amounts of heat and light intensity. As they grow taller, you will probably have to continually raise your grow lamps to keep from burning the plants. Since you are controlling the height with LST, you are unlikely to have to make constant adjustments to your growing area. As an added bonus, your plants will benefit from greater consistency.
For most growers, those advantages are reason enough to try low-stress training. Still, there is yet another benefit to consider. LST is simple and inexpensive to implement. Even first-time growers can successfully implement this strategy. That is a benefit that few other training techniques provide.
What You will Need to begin Low-Stress Training Your Marijuana Plants
LST is a simple process that definitely pays off in the long run. You do not have to spend a great deal of money on extra equipment and gadgets, and there is no need to perform countless labor-intensive tasks that could harm the plant if done incorrectly. You will only need a few standard, inexpensive tools.
To control the direction and height of the cannabis stems, you have to tie them down. For this, you will need twist ties or soft wire ties. The latter is commonly used in gardening. If you go with twist ties, it is best to use the rolled variety so you can cut the ties to the lengths you need. Both options are soft enough to keep from cutting into the plant and damaging it but have plenty of strength to hold the stems in place.
You will need scissors to top the plants at a certain point in their vegetative stage. It is best if they are sharp because dull scissors can damage the plant. They are also more difficult to cut with, so sharp scissors minimize the amount of energy you have to exert.
When manipulating the stems, you will have to tie them down to something to keep them in place. Several options are available. Some growers simply drive sticks into the soil around the outer edges of their plants’ pots for this purpose. If you want, you can use tomato cages.
If you are an experienced grower or one who is willing to put a great deal more time and effort into the venture, you can get more technical with staking. Some marijuana gardeners in Oklahoma drill holes around the top edges of their pots or build rough platforms with slats to place underneath their plants. Many install hooks around the lips of their planters. Do not be afraid to get creative!
Above all else, it is important to remember you may need to move your plants at some point. They might need to be spread out for better air circulation in your Ohio state grow room. If you grow outdoors in Maine or Illinois, the short summer season may require you to move your plants around to chase the sun. Do not tie your plants directly to a large table or anchors in the floor. Keep mobility in mind.
Beginning the Training Regimen
Once the cannabis plants reach the early weeks of their vegetative stages and you have all your supplies together, it is time to begin training. Experts recommend waiting until your plants have at least four but no more than six nodes, or areas where pairs of leaves branch off the main stem. At this phase, the stems are still flexible, so you can bend them easily without taking a chance at breaking the plant.
Please note here that most cannabis strains can handle low stress training very well, but plants from autoflower seeds should be approached with caution. Because they are typically already so short, and have a short vegetative stage, you will not have a lot of opportunity or need to do excessive shaping. You can prune and encourage the plant to take on a certain shape, but they may not bounce back with as much resilience as some other large plants from other regular or feminized chronic seeds.
First Things First
Before you start giving the plants extra guidance and direction, you may want to top them. This means cutting off the top of the plant. Cut it down to the third node but leave a little of the stem in place. Doing so lowers the risk of damaging the node left in place and gives it additional support to keep growing.
Some growers do not like to top their plants, and it is not an essential step. In most cases, it is a matter of height control and making way for additional colas, or bud clusters, to grow. Experts advise against topping certain strains of marijuana. If you want to top the plants, be sure to research your chosen strain beforehand.
Tying the First Knot
Making the first move in low-stress training is a simple matter of bending down the main stem of the plant to the height you want it to grow. Pull it toward the outer rim of the pot to pave the way for future growth and tying. Be gentle with it, so it does not break. When you have it right where you want it, tie it to your stake or other fastening option.
Do not tie tight knots around the stems because this could cause undue stress, damage the stems, and negatively affect the plant’s health. Bend the wire or twist tie loosely around the stem to create a circular hook but clench it tightly enough to keep the stem from simply sliding out of place. Then, affix an additional tie to the hook and attach that one to your stake or anchor.
After the initial tie-off, check your plants every couple of days. Healthy marijuana tends to grow quickly, so it could easily get out of control and venture off in any direction if you do not keep an eye on it. Continue tying additional stems as needed, focusing on the tallest ones.
Along the way, maneuver the stems in the desired directions and to the preferred height, and tie them down with each new bend. You will need to repeat the process throughout the vegetative phase and into the first few weeks of the flowering stage. Be sure to tie new growth while it is still young and pliable.
Choosing a Direction
When deciding which pattern to use for LST, you have a few options to choose from. You could go with a spiral, winding your way outward in a circle as the plant grows. Star patterns are popular as well. Just pull each branch away from the middle of the plant and tie it down. When viewed from above, it will look like a star.
Additional Tips and Tricks
Snapping stems is an unavoidable part of the training process no matter how careful you are. If a stem breaks, press it back together firmly but gently, and tape it right away. One of the benefits of bending the stems while they are young and tender is their amazing ability to recover at that point. Chances are the plant will heal itself.
Once your plants enter the flowering phase, be extra cautious during training sessions. Try to avoid touching the buds because you could damage them or knock them off the plants altogether. Also, be more vigilant at that stage. Cannabis plants often go through one last growth spurt during the first few weeks of flowering, so you may need to tie down the stems more often.
Do not wait until plants begin flowering to start LST. Stems are usually too rigid to manipulate at this point, and the plant has already chosen its path. Beginning a training regimen at this late stage could also hamper CBD and THC production, so your buds would not be as potent.
Do not Neglect the Other Essentials
Low-stress training is a simple way to control plant growth and heighten bud production, but it is not a replacement for additional growth-maximization strategies. You still have to keep up with all the elements marijuana plants need for healthy maturation and bud production.
While you are training the plants, continue to monitor temperatures, humidity levels, water in the soil, and other factors. Remember to switch from blue light to red and orange and change the lighting schedule at the right times. Adjust the distance between the lights and plants as needed.
Watch for signs of unhealthy stress throughout the plants’ lifecycles. Wilting can be a clue the plants are getting too much or too little moisture. Pale patches on leaves may indicate your plants are receiving too much light. Discoloration is often a symptom of nutrient deficiency. Monitor those aspects carefully and change your fertilizer formula when plants transition from the vegetative stage to flowering.
Keep an eye out for white patches because this means you have a mold problem. If growing conditions seem to be within recommended levels and your plants are still discolored or wilting, root rot may be an issue. The plants may be salvageable with fungicide treatments if you catch these situations early enough.
Several strategies have come to light to help growers increase their yields and escalate bud potency. Cannabis farmers sometimes use these techniques in tandem to give their plants a well-rounded experience. It is not always necessary to place that much effort into growing marijuana, though. Weed-seeds.com offers a wide selection of easy-to-grow cannabis seeds that can give you good results without requiring you to be an expert.
Countless growers have maximized their bud growth with minimal work and negligible stress to their plants. Try low-stress training for yourself. Mastering the technique may take a little time and practice, but it is sure to pay off in the long run. If you need help selecting seeds that will grow well in your area and also respond well to these training techniques, contact our team – we love to help!