Plant Training for Small Spaces

by /u/ekrof

Space Buckets can be used to grow many kinds of plants, but they need to be trained to fit the limits of its container. Plant training is an essential tool for this hobby: untrained plants will outgrow their buckets if you let them.

Hot peppers are a great plant to practice trainig techniques.

Plant training techniques can be divided into two: Low Stress Training, which includes bending, tucking and guiding the stems; and High Stress Training, which purposely stresses the plant to make it heal. This article covers both groups of techniques.

LST can be started early in the life of a plant, and it is specially useful for cannabis and hot peppers. As the plant gets older, it stem hardens, which makes the training more difficult. On the other hand, HST poses a higher risk of failure, but sometimes a bigger reward. These methods have a drastic impact on the plant, and require a few days of healing time.

For growing in a Space Bucket or in small spaces, you need to train the plant to grow as horizontally as possible. If you can keep your plant flat and with an even canopy, the lighting inside your bucket will be more effective, and you'll get better yields.

That being said, every plant is different, and there are many factors that influence its performance. Even if the techniques are the same, two plants may react differently and challenge you in different ways.

LST: Low Stress Training

The most basic form of training implies bending the stems of the plant to make it grow in a horizontal fashion. This can be achieved with hooks that wrap around the stems and into the soil. With this method, the plant grows into a bush form, creating a more even canopy, something that is very important for gardening in small spaces. It can be hard to predict the growth pattern of a plant, so every new hook needs to be strategically planted along the way.

There are many ways to train a plant, and some approaches defy categorization.

Tucking leaves is another useful LST technique, and a good alternative to pruning. In this case, the idea is to pull leaves that are blocking important parts of the plant, like flowering tops. Instead of removing the leaf, it can be tucked behind a stem, exposing a part that needs to be emphasized. This is usually better than pruning, as it does not require healing time and allows the plant to use the nutrients stored in the leaf. In situations where tucking is impossible, a bit of prunning can be useful, but only removing a few leaves at a time.

HST: High Stress Training

Topping is the main HST technique in a bucketeers arsenal. This method requires removing the topmost growth of the plant, which forces it to grow in a bushier kind of tree. When applied early, topping alters the canopy significantly, and limits the height of the plant.

This training technique can be used multiple times, and every time it will multiply the number of branches. That being said, there is a limit to how much you can top: for most of the cases, between one and three toppings will be enough for a very short plant. Because it removes unwanted parts of the plant, topping results in a cleaner, more predictable training.

Even though topping is a powerful tool for plant training, it is a High Stress technique, and as such plants usually need a few days of healing to recover. During those days, further training is not recommended. Also, keep in mind that not all plants react positively to topping, so research species characteristics before using this or other HST techniques.

Supercropping is another useful tool for controlling the plants growth and training its canopy: in its simplest form, it means pinching the stem to force the plant to heal its internal structure. Once healed, this results in ber and faster growth. The most important part of supercropping is to avoid breaking open the stem, you need to crush it just right. A whole branch of the plant can die if the supercropping is excessive.

Supercropping tends to be considered a controversial technique, given its high stress methods. As with topping, not all plants react positively to this kind of training. Supercropping is recommended for gardeners that already have some experience in plant growing, or for high stakes situations, when the bucket is about to be overgrown.

Plant hormones

Plant growth hormones (also known as phytohormones) play the dominate role in plant structure and development. The following are some references to get you started on this topic.

In cannabis, Gibberellic acid can be used to cause a female plant to produce feminized seeds.
  • Auxin promotes cell expansion. This hormone is most involved with plant morphology (plant shape) and tropisms (how a plant reacts to environmental conditions like light or gravity). It plays an essential role in coordination of many growth and behavioral processes in plant life cycles. Used in rooting compounds for clones. Used in 'weed and feed' to kill dicotyledons (plants that have 2 leaves when germinating like cannabis) while leaving monocotyledons (plants that have a single leaf when germinating like corn and lawn grass) intact.
  • Cytokinins promotes cell division in plant roots and shoots. Cytokinins act in conjunction with auxin,having generally opposite effects. It can be bought as Nitrozyme concentrate
  • Gibberellins cell expansion. In cannabis commonly used to hermaphrodite a female plant to produce feminized seeds. It can be used to help some seeds to germinate as well. Can be easily bought in powder form.
  • Abscisic acid reacts to stress of the environment. Forms with dry soil to signal stomata to close.
  • Ethylene is involved in plant ripening. It is a very simple hydrocarbon in gaseous form (C2H4).
  • Brassinosteroids reacts to plant stress particularly leaf damage. Lowers photosynthesis efficiency in leaves.
  • Florigen hypothesis proteins involved in flowering. The hypothesis states that flowering is triggered in leaves.