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Top 6 Cannabis Plant Training Techniques

One of the best things an indoor cannabis grower can do for their garden is to apply some sort of training technique. These techniques allow growers to have more control over the size of their garden and harvest than ever before. Whether you are a novice grower or a seasoned professional, you can benefit from one of these training techniques.

Growers all over the world use training techniques as a way to manipulate and enhance the growth of their cannabis plants. This helps to achieve stronger, bushier plants that have a larger overall yield. Even if it may sound daunting, training techniques just take a little bit of practice to master and even novice growers can benefit from these techniques.

Training your plants is one of the easiest – and definitely the most natural – ways to enhance your final harvest. Whether you are training plants to fit into a smaller place or simply training them to yield a fat load of buds, there’s an appropriate training technique for your garden. And, of course, this removes the need for chemicals to achieve the same results. So get your gardening gloves on so you can try one of these training techniques.

1. Topping & “FIM”

“Topping” is the act of cutting a growing shoot off the stem. By doing so, the plant is encouraged to direct extra energy to the next two shoots. Topping is performed on the main central stem at first, causing the two secondary stems to grow larger in compensation.

Once those two stems have grown strong and healthy, they may be topped again to produce four main stems—and maybe again to produce eight main stems! As shown in the photo, a tiny section of stem should be left behind when topping. If you cut the entire stem, you risk damaging the emerging shoots below it.

“FIM”, otherwise known as “Fuck I missed”, was allegedly discovered by a gardener seeking to top his plants as normal, but missing slightly—leaving a slightly larger section of stem behind. If performed correctly, the two secondary shoots should grow as normal, with the addition of 2-4 extra shoots that grow directly from the stem remnant left behind.

Topping and FIM both allow the height of the plant to be controlled, and create bushier growth by encouraging more vigorous growth of lower stems to replace the missing central stem. It is advisable to top or FIM a maximum of three times when growing indoors, as the plant needs some time to recover from the stress.

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2. Supercropping (or high-stress training)

Supercropping (also known as high-stress training or HST) is a similar technique to those outlined above. The idea is to divert energy from the main central stem to the secondary stems, with the aim of increasing the number of main colas.

However, instead of removing part of the central stem, the technique involves pinching the stem between the fingertips and bending until the inner part of the stem breaks—but if performed correctly, the outer stem and “bark” remains intact. The stem will then be unable to support itself and will flop loosely downwards.

While this still subjects the plant to considerable stress, it is not as severe as that caused by topping or FIM. Plants should recover quickly, and there is no loss of stem tissue and potential flower sites—but the plant is still “tricked” into thinking it has lost its main stem (as the nutrient transport tissues have been damaged), so it will pour its energy and growth hormones into maximizing lower branch growth.

As well as this, the main stem itself will recover and even grow stronger, as the site of the original break will form a swollen section around the damaged tissue in order to protect and repair the main stem. Ultimately, this collar of extra tissue will allow nutrients to be transported at a faster rate.

Typically, this section will never regain its fully vertical position, but will remain horizontal. This will expose the length of the stem to the light, and encourage any small secondary branches between the break and the tip to grow vigorously upwards.

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3. Low stress training (LST)

Low stress training (LST) are training techniques that are not invasive and do not lead to the stress levels seen with topping and supercropping. The main principle of low stress training is to maximize light exposure to as much of the plant as possible, and it is achieved by using wires, strings, yo-yos (in this case a kind of retractable elastic string on a roller), or some other device that will fix stems in position without causing them damage.

The LST technique typically involves forcing the main stem to grow in a horizontal direction rather than vertical. The main stem is pulled downwards and fixed into position, and trained to continue growing close to the ground. As a result, the lower branches are suddenly exposed to dramatically increased light, and they are encouraged to grow vigorously towards the light.

With time, there should be several strong stems growing up towards the light. The original main stem will also attempt to resume vertical growth; this can be prevented entirely, or it can be permitted once it is deemed that the lower branches have developed sufficiently.

Some growers use LST in combination with topping or FIM—at first the plant is topped to produce more “main” stems from the lower branches, and once this stage is complete the main branches are pulled outwards and downwards and fixed into position. This increases the “spread” of the plant considerably, but allows even more of the lower branches to access the light, and grow strong in response to the increase in light intensity.

4. Removing lower branches (and “lollipopping”)

While the above techniques are typically performed during the vegetative period, the final type of training that we will discuss in this article is often performed in the mid-to-late stages of the flowering period.

The technique involves removing the majority of the leaves and stems from the bottom 1/3 of the plant—as the distance from the light source increases, the light intensity available decreases proportionally. Thus, below a certain point the plant is putting energy into growing flowers and leaves that will remain negligible in size due to the lack of light intensity.

Removing the lower branches and leaves at a point approximately mid-way through the flowering period will encourage the plant to channel its energy into the upper flower sites, thereby increasing their size and weight.

If the lower branches are removed too early, the plant may just put out more stems and leaves; if they are removed too late, more energy will be wasted on negligible flower sites, and when this energy is finally diverted to the upper buds there will be insufficient time for it to noticeably affect yield.

This technique can be taken to extremes and used to produce plants with just one central cola and no lateral branching at all—some growers find this desirable at it leads to the formation of huge, chunky central colas. This extreme form of the technique is known as “lollipopping”, and it is usually performed at just two weeks into flower—so a little earlier than the standard technique for lower branch removal.

However, most growers will use a variety of other training techniques before removing the lower branches. If performed correctly, this will produce an even canopy of multiple tops which will produce plenty of evenly-sized buds, and a lower third devoid of small, useless branches and leaves.

Growing stronger and bushier cannabis plants isn’t difficult if you know how to apply one of the many training techniques for cannabis. Learn more now.

Quick Guide to Marijuana Training Techniques

by: Sirius Fourside

Once a grower is able to successfully take a plant from seed (or clone) to harvest, a common new goal is: “How can I do it better?”

The answer: efficiency!

Although cannabis is a weed and has an easy time growing, it doesn’t do so in an efficient manner for indoor growing.

Cannabis naturally tends to grow in the shape of a christmas tree which works great outside with a sun that moves through the sky. Yet inside the lights stay in the same place so it unfortunately means that parts of the plant are getting much more light than the others.

Although you can grow great bud this way, it wastes a great deal of the usable light you’re paying for. That’s where “Cannabis Training” comes in!

Cannabis training is when growers use established or improvised techniques to alter the natural growth pattern of a marijuana plant, usually to increase efficiency and yields when growing indoors.

There are already many methods available to train your plant, and growers are experimenting with new techniques all the time. In fact, there are so many methods available that many people get confused or intimidated and opt to not try any of them.

But you’re not one of those people! Instead, you’re reading infomation on how to take advantage of these techniques to get the most out of your cannabis plants!

Below, I’ll give you my cheat notes on some of the most popular methods of training plants. We’ll be reviewing:

LST (Low Stress Training)

What It Does:
Low Stress Training – or LST – allows growers to change the actual shape of the plant by slowly bending the stems downward in a deliberate fashion. The stems will then grow vertically again, but now they will be better placed to allow light to contact more bud sites.

How To Do It:
Anyone who has done LST will agree that it’s an art in its own right. The basics are to use twistie-tie, twine, or something similar to tie to a stem. Next, the other end of the twistie-tie/twine/etc. is anchored in such a way as to bend the stem downward. This can be accomplished by tying the twine/etc. to the pot/bucket the plant is growing in. The stems are meant to be pulled away from each other to maximize growing space. Think of spreading out the stems from the middle like a star. LST is most effective when done in combination with topping, fimming or other training methods that break apical dominance (the tendency to grow in a christmas tree shape)

Who Should Try This?
Indoor growers of all skill levels can and should try LST. If you’re doing a small grow or just trying to maximize on your indoor grow lights, LST will become a must after you’ve tried it once!

  • Drastically increases yields when done correctly
  • Manages height of plants; makes shorter plants with more buds!
  • Makes much more effective use of lights
  • Works amazingly with topping/fimming
  • Growers can snap stems by bending too much at one time, or by trying to bend woody older stems instead of flexible new growth. If you ever snap a stem, tape it up immediately and it will heal!
  • Can take more time than some other training methods since plants will likely need to be LST’d multiple times (per branch)

Topping

What It Does:
Topping is a method used to essentially force the cannabis plant to have two slightly smaller main colas instead of the single normal one. Main colas almost always have the highest concentration of buds (by weight), so yields are noticeably increased by making two of them, even if nothing else is done besides topping.

How To Do It:
Not only is Topping easy to do, but it only takes seconds and is totally done afterwards. To top your plant, you’ll need to wait until it grows at least 3 to 5 nodes. To finishing topping, simply cut off the newest node right above the leaves of the node below. You can also cut down further on the plant if you need to make it shorter.

Who Should Try This?
Like LST, topping is a great starter training technique and can be attempted by growers of all skill ranges. I would suggest topping after you’ve grown a single plant (just to see how it works), but you can try it on your first plant if you’re the adventurous type!

  • Super easy to do
  • Increases yields by a noticeable amount
  • One cut; do it once and it’s done!
  • Works amazingly with LST
  • Can be intimidating to cut off the top of a plant

Fimming

What It Does:

Fimming is like topping in that it forces the plant to grow extra colas. However, while topping will make the plant to grow two main colas, fimming usually creates 4.

How To Do It:

As with topping, a grower should wait until their plant has at least 3 to 5 nodes before going through with fimming. When ready to fim your plant, firmly pinch the leaves of the newest growth between your index finger and thumb. You can also cut the new growth instead of pinching it. See the picture to the below for a detailed look.

Who Should Try This?
Fimming can be tried by all growers as nothing really happens if it isn’t done correctly. Go for it!

  • Super easy to do – you can’t really mess this one up
  • Noticeable increase to yields
  • Works extremely well with LST
  • Pinch it once, and the work is all done
  • None! In the worst case (if not fimmed correctly), you’ll have a plant with a few weird looking leaves that still function.

Manifolding

What It Does:
Manifolding is a modified way of topping a plant multiple times to get it to distribute energy equally to all nodes. When done correctly, all remaining branches will get a equivalent amount of energy from the roots, and as such, grow to a similar size. The point of manifolding is to create 8 symmetrical main colas.

How To Do It:
Before attempting mainlining, growers should be very comfortable with topping as it involves topping the same plant multiple times. Below is the abridged version of how to mainline a plant.

Please note that these steps are just to get you acquainted with what’s involved in mainlining, these are not complete steps!

  1. Wait for the plant to grow 6 nodes.
  2. Top to 3rd node and remove extra growth
  3. Let each new cola grow 2-4 nodes
  4. Top to the 1st or 3rd node (whichever is more symmetric)
  5. Let the new colas grow 3 nodes
  6. Top to the 2nd node

At this point the plant will have 8 symmetrical colas.

Who Should Try This?
Manifolding is definitely an advanced technique, and we’d strongly advise growers to only try manifolding when they’re very comfortable with growing plants. Manifolding can work in most mediums, but it shines brightest in hydroponics since the recovery time is dramatically shortened. It is not a good technique for small plants, since the plant needs to be at least a few feet tall to get the benefits of manifolding.

  • Equal distribution of energy makes for a hearty, good looking plant
  • No small, larfy buds. All energy goes into long, huge colas
  • Makes for efficient use of growing light
  • Very noticeable increase in yields when performed correctly
  • Time consuming
  • Involves lots of cutting on the plant (topping) which will increase total grow time
  • Doesn’t work with fimming
  • Not good for small plants – plants should be able to grow to at least a few feet tall after being manifolded in order to take advantage of the 8 colas (otherwise it’s probably a waste of time)
  • Not for beginners!

Defoliation

What It Does:
Defoliation is a controversial technique that involves removing fan leaves to increase energy spent on bud sites. Defoliation is also thought to limit the amount that a plant will grow vertically.

How To Do It:
To defoliate a plant, a grower would use their hands or scissors to remove fan leaves from the plant. These are the leaves that grow right under the bud site and have a long stem with just a single fan leaf on it. It’s important to note that this is typically done early in the flowering stage, and only on healthy plants with an abundance of light.

Who Should Try This?
This is another advanced technique, so you should only try it if growing cannabis feels easy, but you want to get more out of your grows. Growers who want to defoliate should be in early flowering (though it can be done in veg for height control) and using lights with enough power to penetrate to far into the canopy once the big fan leaves are gone.

  • Easy to do.
  • Higher yields (more light to more bud sites = more bud)
  • Creates more space between branches for bud sites to capitalize on.
  • Tends to shorten the overall height of plants.
  • Decreases chances of White Powdery Mold
  • A bit scary/dangerous; one wrong cut can remove future buds
  • Defoliating gives you less room for error, and any deficiencies will hit bud sites first
  • Some growers claim defoliation actually stunts plant growth instead of helping
  • Sirius: I picked up defoliation after Nebula covered an article about its benefits. Since then, I defoliate in every grow and I’d definitely stand behind it as a valid way to increase efficiency and yields when done right.

Even though we’ve gone through all these training methods, there are still more techniques to train your marijuana plants. In fact, there are two that are VERY popular that were skipped to keep this article from getting too lengthy.

If you want to find out more about them, check out our articles on:

Today, I’ll give you my cheat notes on the most popular methods of training plants, including Defoliation, Fimming, Topping, LST (Low Stress Training), Main-Lining, Scrog and Supercropping.