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low stress traiing
Training your monster plants

Just like any horticulturalist, Medical Marijuana growers are constantly trying to maximize yields. Unlike most other horticultural fields however, Medical Marijuana producers are limited by the number of plants they are allowed to grow. Because of this limitation most medical growers are growing the biggest indoor plants possible to produce the largest amount of high quality medicine possible from smaller numbers of plants.

day night cycles

When it comes to growing Marijuana indoors, we have the benefit of controlling all the variables essential for plant growth. This includes the ability to extend or reduce day length, perpetuating summer or bringing on fall in the eyes of the plants to induce flowering. Most Marijuana strains will not flower when kept under 18 hours of light and 6 hours of darkness every 24 hours. Keeping the plants in this vegetative state allows them to grow as large as we like and using large pots allows the root system to grow as large as we like. When we want the plants to stop vertical growth and begin to flower, their day/night cycle is switched to 12 hours light and 12 hours dark every 24 hours. This combined with a low nitrogen, high phosphorus fertilizer will induce flowering and slow vegetative growth.

In order for these large plants to produce to their maximum they need sufficient lighting. For some growers this may mean one 1000w High Pressure Sodium light hung vertically per plant, and/or bulbs without shades being dropped between plants to ensure sufficient light penetration of the canopy. This method of growing “Monster Plants” can have excellent results. Growers report yields as high as 2lbs per 1000w but it also has its disadvantages.

A sea of green style grow is a favourite of large scale, commercial growers. They use many small plants (sometimes as many as 50-100 per light!) to create an even canopy which can be lit using lights hung horizontally, allowing for more efficient lighting of the crop. With monster plants, often reaching more than 6 feet in height and four feet in diameter, the additional bulbs needed to ensure proper light penetration can lead to heat problems and or course higher power costs. Fortunately there is a simple solution to this problem. We've already learned how to control every aspect of the plants environment to create monster plants, the next step is to control the plant itself by using a technique called training.

Training

apical dominance

Training of plants can be done for many reasons and by many methods, but whatever the method or reason training reduces auxins in the main stem. Plants use hormones called auxins to determine “apical dominance” whereby the main stem of a plant is dominant over other side stems. The pattern follows true for branches, in which the main stem of the branch is also dominant over its own side branchlets. By reducing the auxins in the dominant part of the plant you allow other axillary buds (or lateral buds as shown in the diagram) and branches to grow, competing for apical dominance. When done properly, training can mean the difference between 1 big cola and many small undeveloped “popcorn” buds and a large number of colas with buds of even quality and size.

While there are many different forms of training that can help you maximize your yields, they all fall within 2 main categories. While both categories achieve similar results , they do so by different means: High stress training involves actually physically damaging the plant. This makes training quick and easy, requiring few tools and minimum time, but as the name implies it can be stressful to the plant, taking longer to recover and opening possible sites for disease; The Low stress training creates similar results causing little damage and minimum stress. While is is easier on your plants and much more forgiving (even reversible in some circumstances) it is much more involved and requires more time in your garden (not necessarily a bad thing!! )

High Stress Training

fimming

 

High stress training is usually done in one of two ways: Topping, and Mutilation. Topping is done by removing the apical tip, or a portion of the main stem. By trimming out the apical bud, auxins in the plant cause auxilary buds and branches to begin growing. Topping usually causes two main stems to become dominant, but also creates a stockier plant with more branching than normal. In this same category is a technique called the FIM or “fuck I missed” method. In this method, the apical tip is only partially removed. While being more difficult and time consuming, the FIM method can create 4 or more tops where topping would create two. Mutilation is a technique that takes some practice but can produce excellent results. It goes by many names but they all follow the same general idea: Mutilate the stem by twisting in such a way that it does not snap but partially breaks, this can then be bent over at a 90 degree angle, again causing auxins to be redistributed throughout the plant. Mutilation is also sometimes done to thicken a plants stem, allowing it to hold much more weight during flowering. This method reportedly can even be used during flowering to prevent stretching plants from burning in the light. While not ideal, it will reduce yields less than burning your plant will!

Low Stress Training

Low stress training is also generally done by two methods: Screen of Green (SCROG) and the Tie Down Method (often just called low stress training or LST). Many growers prefer low over high stress training solely for the fact that it does not require any form of mutilation to the plant, which requires energy to be spent repairing, rather than growing. By moving the apical bud below other buds, we trick the plant into thinking the dominant stem has been lost or blocked by other plants, again redistributing auxins and causing more side branches to vie for dominance. Using the tie down method, a grower fastens a string or wire to tip of the plants dominant branch, this is then gently bent down and tied or weighted. As the plant continues to grow the main stem and side branches are continuously tied down until the entire growing space is filled with stems growing upward. This method can be effective for a few plants, but is very time consuming and probably not very appropriate for larger spacer and plant numbers.

Almost identical to the tie down method is the SCROG method. A wire screen or mesh with 4-6 inch holes can be fastened above the crop, as stems grow through the screen, they are bent and tied to the screen, or tucked back under it. As side branches grow up, they too are bent and tied, eventually creating a thick, even canopy ready for flowering. This method works very well to quickly achieve an even, well supported canopy, ready to be loaded with medicine.

screen of green

 

In our constant search for the perfect yield, there are many paths to travel and enormous amounts of information out there on the world wide web. This is by no means an all inclusive list, and I encourage you to research and experiment. As long as the government controls plant numbers, it seems we are constrained to producing monster plants, hopefully this article has helped clear up some of the mystery about training your plants, and I wish you good yields.