WHAT IS LOW STRESS TRAINING?

Low stress training, or what cannabis cultivators refer to as “LST”, is a modern adaptation of an ancient horticultural art. Espalier is the practice of training and pruning a fruiting plant or tree to grow in a flat, 2-dimensional structure. The word is also the name for the trellis that was often used to support plants. Free-standing (unsupported) espaliered hedgerows of fruit trees supported by walls were once a common sight throughout Europe.

Espalier Training

Hieroglyphs dating back to 1400 BC Egypt clearly depict fig trees trained to grow horizontally. However, as you may have already guessed, the technique was popularised and named espalier in 17th century France. Apple and pear orchards were espaliered not only to expose fruit to more sunlight, but also to beautify the landscape.

Purists will exclusively bend shoots, but most growers will do some pruning to enhance LST. Regardless, the objective is the same as espalier. The grower is manipulating the plant structure to create bushier plants, instead of the typical Christmas tree growth pattern. Shoots are bent to create a flatter canopy, and to promote the development of many main colas.

TOOLS YOU NEED TO LST

You don’t need much to get started with LST. A minimalist toolkit will suffice. The number one essential is soft plant ties to hold shoots in place. To support the bend, you have many options, from drilling holes around the lip of pots to bamboo stakes. All options considered, we’ve found in practice that thin wooden skewers about 30cm long are the easiest to work with. Whatever you do, please don’t secure shoots to the floor. You will need to make adjustments as the grow progresses, and you may need to move plants too. And last but not least, remember to keep some duct tape handy.

Low stress training cannabis

HOW TO LST

LST requires a delicate touch. Always bend shoots outwards and away from the main stem. LST is really a blend of art and science. First, you must imagine what kind of shape you want your cannabis plant to take. If it’s your first experiment with LST, you can still be creative, but don’t get too carried away.

A cannabis bush is probably the most common shape, and not too difficult for beginners to attempt. You can treat the main stem just like any other branch and bend it over to flatten the canopy. Alternatively, you can top or FIM your cannabis and bend all the remaining secondary shoots. Many growers will also defoliate plants too. This is not essential, but it helps to remove some shading fan leaves and lower growth to increase airflow.

If you happen to snap a branch rather than just bending it, you can usually repair the damage. Break out the duct tape and patch the wound immediately. Provided you didn’t completely shear the branch off, it will heal and recover.

Don’t expect to LST 6 shoots and think you’re all done. Existing bends will need to be adjusted as the grow progresses. Moreover, as secondary shoots receive more light, you may need to LST them too. The canopy will repeatedly need to be flattened out to keep it even and open plants up to maximum light exposure.

branches LST training cannabis

WHEN TO LST

Another advantage of LST is the flexibility it gives the grower. It’s only too late to LST when a cannabis plant is late in bloom and the stems are too rigid to bend. Microgrowers with limited space are more likely to LST early to make the most of lateral grow space. Most indoor growers will begin to train plants during the vegetative stage while shoots are still green and pliable. The sooner you start, the more adventurous you can be with your design.

If you really want to maximise your yield and keep every flower in the sweet spot of your grow lamp, you should drop a ScrOG on the grow-op. This is only a viable option for those practised in LST. If you’ve got some experience, this combo is very doable.

Main Lining Cannabis

WHERE TO LST

LST is not confined to interior grow-op designers. The origins of espalier are in outdoor cultivation after all. Outdoor growers, especially those in cooler northern European climates, stand to gain the most from the application of LST. Not only is a squat cannabis bush more low profile than a 3m spindly ganja tree, but also far more productive. Breaking the apical dominance of a cannabis plant to redirect growth hormones to multiples shoots instead of just one is a winning strategy indoors or outdoors.

CAN YOU REALLY LST AUTOFLOWERING STRAINS?

Yes you can. Contemporary autoflowering hybrids have ushered in a new era of hope and change. LST doesn’t really have a recovery time. Within hours, most growers see shoots bouncing back. Essentially, you don’t really need to treat the autos in the RQS collection any different than a photoperiod variety when it comes to LST.

In fact, LST is perhaps the best way to significantly boost the yield of an autoflowering strain with no downside. That being said, you do need to factor in that most autos will start flowering just 4–5 weeks post-germination. It’s best to make up your mind about training in advance.

This growing technique encourages increased bud growth, as the branches are more readily exposed to the source of light. Also, the stems that would normally stand vertically are tied into lateral position, inducing them to sprout new vertical branches, or "waterspouts" - which will create tasty new buds. This is a common practice amongst gardeners for climbing roses, grapes, and other vining plants.

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