Low Stress Training (LST) 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, LST's main goal is providing as much light exposure to the plants as possible.
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.
LST 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. Download my free marijuana grow bible for more tips about growing marijuana plants.
How to Grow Marijuana Using Low Stress Training
Although LST techniques are meant to minimize stress, some growers still use a mixture of LST 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. This LST method will improve your yield substantially.
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 Cannabis Suited to LST?
Virtually all varieties of marijuana will adapt to LST. 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. We recommend varieties like Super Silver Haze, White Widow or Blueberry. All top quality marijuana seeds are available in my marijuana seed shop (buy 5 get 5 free). We ship seeds to the US, CA and many other countries. For any growing related question please visit the marijuana support page.