Anyone who has tried to grow pot plants at home is familiar with the many problems that can arise between seed and harvest. But one of the most important is stress, especially for cultivation using high-powered indoor grow lights.
These stresses can wilt leaves, limit potency, and stunt plant growth. The end product simply isn’t as good when a plant is stressed throughout the grow cycle.
There are multiple methods of reducing stress in a marijuana plant, but so-called “Low Stress Training” (LST) is one of the most effective. Used properly, low stress training can boost yields and improve the health of any garden.
LST works by creating an ideal lighting setup above each cannabis plant. Unhealthy stress most often results from improper lighting, which can expose plants to too much or too little heat than they need to produce good weed.
Optimizing your setup for light exposure
A traditional marijuana grow site would use an intense light source suspended above the plants. This is usually done with High Pressure Sodium (HSP) bulbs or LED cultivation lights. Light is centered directly above the center of the plant, meaning the top branches get the most light while the bottom branches get the least.
This can be a problem, since an ideal grow will encourage bud development on all parts of a plant. With too little light, the bottom can’t grow well, and with too much, the top is likely to wilt or even burn.
LST, by contrast, works by pulling the stalk of the plant down toward the ground. This puts most of the plant in a lateral position, parallel to the ground, so that the lowest branches are exposed to ample light. At the same time, the more evenly distributed light decreases stress throughout the plant and improves yields at harvest time.
Optional: Top the plant first
Here are the basics. First, top the plant; this is optional with LST, but if done should be done first. Topping involves trimming the apex nodes at the top of the stalk, a process that allows the plant to grow more nodes, which in turn produces more bud.
Topping should take place about a month after the start of the vegetative phase and should be repeated as needed until flowering. But caution is advised: Excessive topping can itself cause stress. It’s rarely a good idea to top more than three times.
Tie the stalks downwards
After topping, pull the plant downward and tie it down. Use string, wires, retractable lanyards, pipe cleaners, or any other items that effectively keep the stalk level with the ground or floor. First pull the branches back, then down, and lastly pull them outward so the lowest branches receive direct light.
LST should never be rushed. Plants should be bent and manipulated gently and tied down loosely. This can be done with two strings, each wrapped in padding and tied to one end of a cut rubber band. Attach the other end of the rubber band to the ground and hook the string around the stalk to pull it down. Increase tension as the plant grows. Do this at several points along the stalk.
The idea behind LST is to get as much light as possible to each part of the plant so it can produce more healthy marijuana flower. It also encourages the growth of new branches, which get more light and in turn generate more bud.