Unlike with hydroponics, growing in a solid medium like soil or coco makes transplanting into bigger pots necessary as your plants grow. Why is that?
As the roots expand into the substrate and seek out nutrients, their network will grow to encompass as much space as possible. When the roots have completely filled out the volume of the pot, running circles around the inside perimeter of the container, growers refer to these plants as “root bound”. Vegetative growth will slow down, ultimately limiting the potential of your yields as well.
By transplanting to bigger pots early on, we can prevent this from happening. Transplanting ensures the roots always have space to grow freely and vigorously.
Plants grow faster in smaller pots but are more susceptible to overwatering and overfeeding. When you start in small seedling pots or solo cups, the risk of fungus and other growing problems is largely mitigated, but new problems arise once your soon-to-be vegetative plants want to establish a strong root system.
A good way to go about transplanting is to keep your babies in seedling containers until they’ve each developed at least three nodes. At this point, you can transplant your specimens into larger pots until they double in size. Eventually, you’ll want to move your plants to their final, largest containers where they can truly flourish.
Typically, you will transplant a (photoperiod) plant 2–3 times. Re-potting more frequently isn’t recommended as transplanting causes significant stress.
Let’s run over a list of visual indicators that can help you determine if your plants need to be moved to larger pots!
• Size of the plant: If a plant has visibly outgrown the pot, it’s time to transplant. Look to the number of nodes as a guideline.
• Speed of growth: If you see your plant’s growth accelerating in a too-small pot, transplant before growth becomes stunted. As a hint, the more fan leaves your plants have, the more they can photosynthesise, and the bigger they will become.
• Root development: If plants are rootbound or roots are coming out of the pot, they need to be transplanted.
• Problems with watering: Your growing plants are thirsty! If the pot dries out too quickly, it’s likely your ladies need a larger vessel.
• Growing problems: If you observe slow growth or a sickly appearance from plants in undersized pots, it could be due to the size of their container.
The most important rule to keep in mind when transplanting is that transplant shock causes a lot of stress to your plants. Be extremely careful; the less root damage, the better! This is not a process to rush.
Another important factor is cleanliness. Ensure your working area is clean, and wash your hands before you handle your plants. Better yet, wear gloves.
Do not transplant during the day in the bright sun or under an intense grow light. To avoid exposing your roots to undue light, transplant at night.
1. When transplanting your seedling, water them 1–2 days before transplanting. The soil should be moist but not wet. For later transplants, a drier soil will help the root ball stick together.
2. Prepare the new pot by filling it with good-quality soil. Don’t fill it all the way up and don’t overpack. Water the new pot. Dig a hole in the centre large enough for the new plant.
3. With your hand, cover the soil in the old pot (with your plant) and carefully flip it over. The plant should stick out between your fingers.
4. Carefully slide out the root ball and remove the old container. If the root ball doesn’t come right out, gently squeeze and pat the sides of the pot to loosen the soil. If still stuck, lay the pot horizontally on the floor and try to slide out the root ball. If it still won’t come out, use a knife and cut around the outer rim of the soil to free it (use this only as a last resort). Do not grab the plant and try to pull it out with force!
5. When the plant is finally freed, keep a hand under the root ball and transfer the plant to its new hole in its new container. Use extra soil and fill in the gaps. Pat down the soil just slightly to keep your plant in place.
6. Lightly water the plant to help it settle into its new home. This is a good time to use a root stimulator. Root stimulators help ease transplant shock and promote root development.
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