Not really. Training your plants is forcing them to grow as you want them, to maximize yield and get the most out of the space that you have. There are many ways to accomplish this and we are going to cover a few of the more popular methods of training your plants here.
In this case, we aren’t talking about a beverage. When a cannabis plant grows in nature or isn’t trained or modified when purposely grown, it takes on the shape of a spruce tree, single main trunk, triangle shaped. The reason for this is so that it can get as much of the sun’s light as possible while it moves through the sky during the day, the same reason we angle solar panels.
To make it simple, look at the above diagram. The sun rises in the East and isn’t at full strength until mid-morning. It sets in the West, with similar strength mid-evening.
To get the most out of the light it receives during the day, the cannabis plant will grow large fan leaves near the bottom of the plant, to catch more light when it is weaker, and the buds, which take a lot more energy to produce, grow larger near the top, where it receives the most and strongest light during the day.
Also, marijuana depends on the wind to pollinate and reproduce, so the buds waiting to receive pollen tend to grow best near the top, where it will get the most wind.
Because of these reasons, cannabis tends to grow one very large bud on the main stem, right at the very top. We call this a “cola”. The rest of the plant will have many smaller buds, that most people have taken to calling “nugs”. One cola on a large plant can easily grow to over a half ounce dried.
How to Get More Colas
The purpose of this lesson is to make your plants more able to use the light they will receive inside. The lights you will be using don’t rise and set like the sun and don’t move during the day, so the plant’s natural shape actually decreases its effectiveness to use the light you are providing as energy to grow.
So, how do we change the natural shape of the plant?
There are a few different ways and we are going to cover them here. The following are the ways we will be talking about in this lesson:
- Low-Stress Training
- Screen of Green
Each of these methods will change the shape and the way that your plants grow.
What we are working toward is making the plant more efficient at using the light we have, and increasing yield. We will do this by making as much of the plant as possible into a canopy, one layer of growth, all equally distant from the light.
By doing this, we keep the plant in the best zone for growth, and we change its natural growth behaviour of only growing one cola per plant.
Cannabis plants have something called apical dominance. Apical means relating to an apex. Apical dominance means the plant will naturally form an apex, by focusing its growth on the main, central stem, like an oak tree. This allows a plant to grow strong and tall, and the branches will grow out and collect light as it does.
What we are going to do is destroy or redirect the plants’ apical dominance, and have it grow multiple colas, dramatically increasing the yield for the final harvest.
What Are Nodes?
A node is a point where a pair of fan leaves start to grow. Between the main stem and each fan leaf is a growth tip. Each of these growth tips can be grown out as another cola, using most of the techniques below.
Low-Stress Training (LST)
Low-Stress Training is simply tying down the main stem of the marijuana plant, and making the branches into new tops. Each branch will now receive the same amount of light, and (hopefully) grow the same amount. This achieves our goal of having the whole plant using as much of the light we give it as possible.
We do not want to damage the plant with this method, so we will use the plant ties found in the “Training” section of What You Need to Grow Marijuana. There are also some useful plant rings if you are growing in soil. If growing hydroponically, you can simply tie the stem of the plant, and the other end can tie to something heavy, placed on the cover of the bucket or container you are using (not on the substrate, especially if you use unfinished wood).
You could also make small holes in the cover or top edge of your bucket or container for tying.
When the plant is very young, usually when it has between 4 and 6 nodes, you will gently tie the main stem with the soft wire tie, and attach it somewhere that will hold the stem at 90 degrees and not come loose. Once the stem has had time to grow and harden, the tie can be removed.
That’s all you need to do for this training method!
Each growth site will grow up toward the light as a new stem, and grow their own cola when flowering starts.
High-Stress Training (HST) or Supercropping
This method is essentially the same as LST, only it is done after the stem has grown a bit rigid and difficult to bend down. You will be doing this on certain branches that you will choose (usually taller than others). The reason you will want to supercrop is found in the name, massive yield growth.
Most plants and fungi have defensive measures built in so that if they are damaged or introduced to certain conditions, they change the way they grow to either survive it or produce the next generation as fast as possible.
Every fall, after the first frost, fungus growing in dead plant matter on and in the ground freezes a little on the outer layer and knows it will be dangerous very soon. It pops up as many mushrooms as possible to spread spores to survive. Spores can survive freezing much better than mycelium (the main body of the fungus) can.
For the cannabis plant, a bruised or damaged stalk will send bud and cannabinoid production into overdrive.
Mammals are naturally able to use cannabinoids (chemical compounds found in the cannabis plant) through their Endocannabinoid receptor system. We naturally produce something very similar to the cannabis plant that drives a lot of our natural functions, only not as extremely.
The cannabis plant has evolved to use this against would-be predators.
It hyperactivates the systems in our body, causing the effects that humans have learned to enjoy, but most animals that would eat the plant do not.
So, a deer eating a naturally growing cannabis plant in the forest would (and will) eat a large part of the plant, they start to feel the effects and no longer want to eat any more of it.
At that point, because it is “under attack” and damaged, the plant will supercharge its cannabinoid production to further protect itself while it repairs the damage. It will also put more energy into bud production to ensure its descendence.
This is why we supercrop. We carefully damage the plant on purpose to have the plant enter red alert mode, becoming more potent with a much bigger yield, and has the added benefit of manipulating the shape of the plant at the same time (keeping your canopy flat and equidistant from the light).
What You Need to Supercrop
From the training section in What You Need to Grow Marijuana, you will need the plant ties and the white duct tape.
So, from here, you are going to choose the branches that you wish to supercrop. They will be stiff, but not woody. You want them slightly bendy. The “skin” should still be green. You will also choose branches that are growing above the others. You want your whole plant as close to being flat on the top as possible.
Only use supercropping before the plant enters flowering.
How to Supercrop
We want to slightly damage the inside while keeping the skin intact. This keeps the plant protected while it fixes itself inside while making it much easier to bend to the direction it will grow afterward.
On the first branch that you want to supercrop, find the most likely place for it to bend (probably an inch or two below the canopy line).
Grab the top part of the stem that will be bending down, and put your forefinger and thumb over where you want it to bend. Pinch the bend site firmly to “crush” and bruise the inside. Slightly move the finger and thumb back and forth, like you are sprinkling basil into a sauce, while still pinching them together.
You want to keep doing this until the top part in your hand can be moved without feeling like you have to force it.
Be careful, you don’t want to break the stem or the skin.
Next, you want to bend down the branch and secure it with plant ties (twisty and/or soft wire). If you broke the skin in any way, make sure you tape over it with a small piece of duct tape after securing the branch in place. If it is unable to hold itself up, tie it down and hold it up with a plant yo-yo (also found in the training section of what you need).
That’s It For Bending…Sort of
In the next part of the training lessons, we will go over Screen of Green, or ScrOG. This is an advanced bending technique that will make a perfect canopy every time.
Lesson 8 – Training Your Plants Part 2 – ScrOG