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At least once in their lifetime, you have to transplant marijuana plants from small pots to large containers. As the plants gain mass, their roots will need more space to keep growing, allowing them to absorb higher amounts of nutrients. The move to a bigger home provides for that, but it also comes at a price – stress. Hence, you should prepare the young plants to ensure that they are strong so that they could recover quickly and thrive.
Note: Autoflowering weed seeds are an exemption. Because of their rapid growth rate, these plants cannot tolerate the stress of transplanting. As such, they are better grown in their final containers, even as seedlings.
How Do You Prepare Marijuana Plants for Transplant?
Sticking to a “prevention is better than the cure” type of idea, you can prepare the plants at the beginning by germinating the seeds. Genetics plays a role in healthy growth. So does the way you care for them, this includes providing adequate light and maintaining optimal atmospheric conditions. If needed, you should also give the right amount and appropriate nutrient mixture. Do all these things, and you would have the young plants ready for the transition to their new homes.
Transplanting is not at all challenging. You do have to be careful throughout the entire process. The idea is not to cause any more unnecessary stress. And so here are the things that you should be mindful of when growing marijuana in your house.
1. Soak the Seeds
A marijuana seed is a marvel of nature. Inside a seemingly dead and dried-out husk lives a minuscule plant. It has a root, a stem, and two leaves, surrounded by a nutritive endosperm. This tissue surrounds and nourishes the embryo.
The little plant patiently waits in a state of suspended animation for months and years. Once water passes through the seed’s hull and reaches the embryo, it then bursts into life and germinates.
Soaking the seeds in a glass of plain tap water is the best way to germinate. The seeds will absorb water, become saturated, and sink to the bottom. Discard those that remain floating on the surface; they likely won’t germinate. Even if they do, they might not grow as well as the others.
The soaking water should be at room temperature, around 65°F (18°C), and changed every day. Your seeds will pop open in as short as two days, but could sometimes take up to seven days. Just don’t leave them in the water for more than two weeks.
You know that a seed is germinating properly when a small white fiber pokes out of one end. That is the plant’s taproot from which the entire root system will branch out. Take each of the germinated seeds out of the water when the little root measures 0.1 to 0.2 inches (3 to 5 mm) as it is ready to be planted in soil.
2. Plant the Germinated Seeds
You have plenty of choices when it comes to containers suitable for planting the seeds. Some growers use small individual pots or seedling trays, while others use cheap plastic solo cups. Whichever you choose, make sure that you fill the containers halfway with good-quality, low nutrient level soil. Any excess could lead to a nutrient burn. The baby plants, at this stage, are very delicate and vulnerable.
Nutrient burn, or “nute burn”, occurs when plants are grown directly in soil with an overabundance of nutrients. An excessive uptake causes an imbalance in normal chemical processes. A common sign is yellow or brown leaf tips. If you fail to lower the nutrient level in time, the burn progresses to other parts of the plant, making all the leaves curly and crispy in due course. To avoid this, do not use pre-fertilized soil or fresh compost during this stage.
To plant your seeds, place each one in a half-inch (1.25 cm) deep hole with the taproot pointing downward. If you could not do that, do not force and risk stressing the sprout. The plants are still so small at this point that they can correct their orientation. Roots will always grow down, while stems always grow up.
Cover the germinated seeds with more soil, then spray some water on them. It is unnecessary to tamp the soil down; it will do that perfectly by itself. The germination process will continue as the taproots drive down and produce branching roots. After about a week, you will notice green shoots peeking out of the soil.
3. Water the Young Plants
Water is vital for every plant’s survival and growth, so you must ensure that yours get enough moisture. Underwatering can cause the root systems to dry up, affecting the uptake of nutrients. To conserve their sparse resources, the plants will not grow to full capacity. That will lessen the yield later on.
Insufficient watering causes inadequate moisture. Sometimes, however, it is because the containers are too large. An oversized pot makes it difficult for a tiny plant to absorb moisture from the soil. Its root system is still too small to uptake water fast enough before it flows down to the bottom of the pot.
On the flip side, too much water is also harmful. Overwatering can suffocate the plants’ roots by limiting their access to oxygen. That is also why the soil must not be too dense or packed too tightly. Oxygen is crucial for the development of a robust root system and proper respiration.
Furthermore, overwatering can promote the growth of bacteria, mold, and other diseases. If the soil is too wet too often, root rot may develop. Some of the roots start to decay, and the rot could spread to healthy roots and kill them.
Watering, therefore, is a balancing act. At this early stage, your plants would not need much. Use a sprayer to give them water once or twice a day to keep the soil moist. Do not place them near a heater to prevent evaporation.
4. Keep the Lights On
As plants grow, they will need water and light to manufacture their food. This process is known as photosynthesis. Plants that do not receive enough light will grow too tall and spindly. They will expend too much energy trying to reach for the light, and won’t get bushy.
Growers can choose between compact fluorescent (CFL) and LED grow lights during this time. Both are energy-efficient and emit a white light that mimics the spectrum of natural sunlight. They also do not produce too much heat, although CFLs are typically cooler. Find out more about choosing your grow lights and make the best decision for your plants.
Direct the lights on the growing containers 24 hours a day. CFL bulbs can be placed 2 inches (5 cm) away, while LED lights should be a bit farther. Be aware that soil absorbs the heat generated by the lights, and moisture can evaporate fast. Always check that the soil is never dried out.
The plants’ first shoots will emerge 5 to 10 days after planting. They will need as much light as they can get from then on to grow fast and healthy.
5. Maintain the Right Temperature and Humidity
Marijuana seeds germinate and grow into seedlings at a reasonably high temperature and humidity level. Keep the temp between 70 and 80°F (21 to 30°C) and relative humidity at 75 to 85%. Doing so will ensure rapid and successful growth.
If it’s too hot and dry, your seeds may still sprout, but will progressively die from the heat. On the other hand, if it is too wet and cold, the plants’ life processes will slow down and eventually stop altogether. Either way, it is ultimately harmful to them, so stick to the ideal temperature and humidity ranges.
The easiest place to ensure the proper atmospheric conditions is inside your home or grow room. You can control the environment much better that way, rather than leaving the young plants outdoors at the mercy of the elements.
Once your plants are large and stable enough to be transplanted, you can move them if you are planning to cultivate outdoors.
6. Monitor the Sprouts
As a seed germinates in soil, it develops a root system underneath the surface. What’s left of the seed’s husk gradually emerges atop a tiny stalk. The cotyledons soon follow. When this occurs, we say that the seed has sprouted.
The marijuana plant’s cotyledons are two smooth round-shaped leaves. These are different from the slender, serrated ones that are familiar to us. Those initial leaves used to be part of the plant’s embryo. They are functionally similar to “true leaves”, but will wither and fall off once their job is done.
Sprouts can tolerate 24 hours of light a day, but the delicate stems and leaves are heat-sensitive. Dim the grow lights a little or move them farther away if the temperature gets too hot. Maintain the soil’s moisture level and spray the leaves as well.
You should avoid touching the plants because they are very fragile. Do not be tempted to remove any leaves or even the empty seed husks that hang from the stalks. At this stage, the young plants can get enough nutrients from their surroundings. You should hold off the fertilizer until the next phase.
7. Feed the Seedlings Nutrients
You can start giving your young plants small doses of nutrients when the first internodes form. A root-stimulating foliar fertilizer would be best, but don’t use too much in the beginning.
What is an internode? Firstly, a node is that notch or tiny protrusion on a plant’s stem from which the leaves, branches, or roots grow. The space between the nodes is called an internode. The formation of internodes means that the plants are stretching upward to accommodate the growth of more leaves. It indicates that the roots have developed well enough to support that growth.
The roots will benefit from added phosphorus and potassium at this time. Those two nutrients encourage plants to build new roots and strengthen their existing ones. You should also give them nitrogen, which is essential for photosynthesis. Watch out for signs of nutrient burn, however. Ease off when you notice leaf tips turning yellow.
8. The Roots Tell You When to Transplant
The growing container’s size limits the development of a plant’s root ball. As the root network expands to look for water and nutrients, it will fill up as much space as possible. The roots will finally hit the sides of the container and grow in a circular pattern. When that happens, the plant becomes rootbound.
Rootbound plants are more common when they are grown in pots that are too small, but it could also happen outdoors in the ground. Roots could get caught between solid barriers, such as pipes or concrete foundations. They could also run into each other if the plants are too close to one another. This condition stunts vegetative growth and the plants would not be able to reach their full size. Smaller plants result in lower yields.
Early prevention is key. Observe the drainage holes of your seedling containers. When healthy white tendrils begin to poke out, it’s time to transplant. Dark or discolored roots are signs that the plants are already root bound, and you must act quickly to correct the problem.
9. Transplanting Tips
Transplanting plants can be a risky business. Even when you do everything correctly, your seedlings still undergo a period of transplant shock. The plants will have to re-establish their root systems within the first few days, and they might struggle a bit. Nevertheless, they usually recover on their own. Just water them properly and be patient.
Remember these tips to lessen the effects of shock and guarantee a successful transplant:
- Prepare the new containers beforehand. Your plants need at least double the volume of the old ones. If the space is too small, you will have to transplant more often, creating more stress. When in doubt, opt for more space than you think you’ll need. The same principle applies to outdoor growing.
- Wash your hands thoroughly after or wear gloves when handling the seedlings. Keep the transplant area as clean as possible to avoid contamination. You don’t want your plants to pick up any pathogens.
- To remove the seedlings more easily from their original containers, you can lightly moisten the soil but don’t drench it. If it’s too wet, it will be challenging to handle the root ball as the soil will crumble in your hand.
- The roots must not be damaged during the whole process. Torn roots are the number one cause of transplant shock. Put the plants into their new homes quickly to decrease the roots’ exposure.
- Give your plants a full watering when the transplant is done. Avoid overpacking the soil so that excess water can drain away. That also allows the roots to access oxygen more readily.
Provide a Solid Foundation for the Plants Before Transplanting
The primary consideration when transplanting marijuana is the plants’ readiness to be moved. Seedlings must be strong enough to withstand stress. That strength is a direct result of proper care from seed germination to sprouting.
Maintain the correct temperature, lighting, and moisture levels starting from the plants’ earliest development stage. Check the leaves and roots often. Be alert for signs that your plants are over- or underwatered or becoming rootbound.
A good foundation produces healthy plants that are more resistant to diseases and pests. Furthermore, they are resilient against extreme changes in growing conditions. They can absorb water and nutrients better and grow faster and larger. Ultimately, they will give you higher yields.