Want to know how low stress training (LST) works and when to use it? Here, we look at how LST can help improve your autoflower’s yields.
Simple and inexpensive to implement, it’s a great way for beginners to get to know their cannabis plants in a more hands-on way.
The principle of most LST techniques is to reduce the height of your autoflower by bending leaves to become in sync with the side branches. This encourages lateral growth for an autoflower crop that’s easy to manage, with more lucrative harvests. Why bother? Because it keeps heights short and light, more effective.
Quick jump to: How to LST autoflowers?
Advantages of LST on Autoflowers
Autoflower strains may be a wonder when it comes to speed of growth, but they can’t be treated the same as regular photoperiod strains. This is especially so when it comes to training techniques, as you cannot manipulate the vegetative phase for enhanced growth. For instance, whatever stress you place on your plant cannot be compensated for by prolonging the vegetative process like you can with photoperiod strains.
In theory, normal cannabis strains can be kept alive and vegetative for years – autoflowers cannot. However, there are still plenty of techniques you can implement to achieve greater results, including low stress training to produce bigger colas.
LST is advantageous because it places very little stress, as the name suggests, on your plant. This is excellent for fast-growing autoflowers that have little room for error and are at risk of being stunted. Put simply, LST is far less likely to hinder growth compared to higher stress techniques like topping, when you physically cut the top of your plant off. A simple bend of the branch during its vegetative stage places very little stress on the plant as a whole, while promoting a flat and wide canopy for better light absorption.
Autoflower strains are naturally meant to grow just one large bud with smaller offshoots along its branches. As their main stems grow horizontally, only this central bud gets the most light. By bending the branches, you trick the plant into thinking its main stem is gone and that the smaller buds must now compete for more light. This allows you to produce multiple top buds rather than one.
The benefit of this is clear: greater yields with fairly low risk. While some experience is recommended when applying this to autoflower strains, LST is still among the simplest techniques to implement. All in all, it’s a great space saver that promotes controlled growth in compact areas while improving light absorption and bud production.
Indoor / outdoor stealth growing
As for where to apply LST, you can utilize this technique both indoors and outdoors. Most growers favor using LST for indoor crops because light is often more static (unlike natural sunlight), meaning that growing directions are easier to predict. However, LST is particularly useful in temperate climates where light is less prominent day-to-day and where sunlight is a more precious commodity! It will also be more discreet because it keeps your crops low-lying, so don’t be afraid to use LST outdoors.
When to apply Low Stress Training on Autoflowers?
It’s best to apply LST once you’ve got the hang of growing autoflowers as-is. This will give you the necessary first-hand experience of how autoflowers grow, their nutrient intake and watering timetable. Why is this important? Because the actual period in which to start training is fairly early in the vegetative phase. Don’t try this out on your very first plant – learn how to grow autoflowers first.
Got some growing experience under your belt? You want to begin training your autoflowers when they’ve developed at least 2 nodes. Starting early during the vegetative stage is crucial because you want your work to take effect before the flowering phase begins. Autoflowers can sometimes reach their flowering stage within just 3 to 4 weeks – so put in the work before this happens. Implementing training too late will risk stunting your plant at its most crucial flowering stage. Why is training discouraged during flowering? Because cannabis stems become more rigid and are prone to snap. One mistake here, and you risk jeopardizing your precious buds. During the vegetative phase, stems are more malleable and can recover.
While it’s always good practice to start LST earlier than later, you can implement it at any time during the vegetative stage. Even if you’re not going for a full ScrOG-like screen (where you apply a mesh above the plant pot to guide your branches horizontally), you can experiment at your own pace whenever you like. Some growers even like to apply some light LST a week or so before flowering. Just remember that with a shorter autoflowering vegetative stage, you should get started as soon as possible.
You want to start by getting all the supplies you’ll need. Pick up some materials for tying down/onto branches, like plant wire or soft purpose-built plant ties. Avoid using string as this can irritate the plant’s stems. At a push, you can use elastic bands. You’ll also need a stake to keep the plant sturdy. Opt for thin and lightweight stakes like bamboo. Some growers choose to place bamboo poles horizontally across the plant pot for anchoring, too. A small drill also comes in handy for creating holes in the pot to attach your ties to. Lastly, some good quality duct tape is indispensable for fixing snaps or ties.
Your tied down branches need to be attached to your pot. The easiest method of doing this is to drill holes around your container’s rim. You can start off by drilling holes at an even distance around the container so that you have more options when the LST begins. You’ll also want to affix your stake to the plant’s stem here to keep it sturdy. Don’t fill your pot to the top with soil, but leave a few extra centimeters for these holes.
Now the fun begins. To anchor the stem you’d like to bend and form, simply affix your tie, gently pull it down and link it with a hole you made in your container. While there are many methods of LST, the idea is to create an even top canopy – so bend your stem and branches in line with one another. There are a number of other techniques here to achieve a flat canopy, like pruning for better light absorption. While there isn’t a rule book on how to shape, it’s always good to start with a mental plan rather than just making it up as you go along. Know the shape you want and put it into practice.
Once you’ve shaped your plant, and it all looks nice and even, wait. Autoflowers grow fast, so you may spot early changes within the same day! Remember, LST is a constant process that you’ll have to keep an eye on. You don’t just anchor your branches and leave it to grow, you’ll have to guide your plant over time to fill an even canopy. If you notice your autoflower stretching, provide more light for longer periods of time. Giving your autoflower greater access to light will promote branch formation rather than single stem stretching.
LST requires constant revision and upkeep to maintain an even canopy. Return to your plant at least every 24 hours and tie and anchor any new branch formations. You can repeat this process as long as your vegetative plant is growing, although you want to ease up when you spot signs of pre-flowering.
Once your autoflower starts flowering, it will begin to mature very quickly. At this point, you don’t want to adjust your branches and stems any further because you risk inflicting permanent damage. However, you can still continue trimming and pruning the branches below that have no chance of getting light. This will re-direct energy towards the exposed branches for greater yields. You can also begin to remove foliage below for better ventilation and ensure that your resinous buds are getting all the nutrients they require. Step back and admire your spider-like handiwork as your autoflower meets its full potential.
Let’s LST some Autoflowers!
If you’re new to LST or simply want to experiment with a fast-growing autoflower, there are numerous training options to try.
While we’ve outlined the basics of tie-down LST above, there are many different methods to pursue. These include ScrOG, which uses mesh screens to control and stabilize growth, and SOG, a method that maximizes compact spaces for quick, high-yield harvests.
Training your autoflower will affect its overall growth and shape. When done right, you can maximize your yield output by encouraging the best absorption of light for the space provided. First designed as a means of height control rather than improving yields, it’s now apparent that LST is a great way to push your autoflowers to the limit. For the best success, choose an autoflower strain that responds well to light training.
We prefer to go for autoflowers seeds that take a bit longer to grow and are larger in size than average autoflowers. Northern Lights x Big Bud and Jack Herer autoflower seeds, in particular, offer great potential with ScrOG techniques.
Another favorite is the high-THC Gorilla Glue auto. By implementing tie-down LST with this bushy hybrid, you can promote more resinous buds to develop as it flowers. If you have a sweet tooth, try out LST with the classic Gelato autoflower. Gelato’s huge yield potential and delightful aromas make it a pleasure to train with screens or ties.
Overall, hybrid strains with Sativa dominance tend to grow better with LST, as they are capable of growing taller. That doesn’t mean that Indica’s won’t benefit from receiving greater light distribution, but the effects are less pronounced. Our seed bank provides information on whether or not each strain is suitable to ScrOG or SOG.
LST is easy to implement once you’ve got the hang of growing autoflowers. For a bit of an experiment, why not test out LST on one plant and leave another to grow naturally? You can then compare and contrast your results. Either way, LST is a great skill to add to your grow room and one that can be learned easily at home.