The first few days of a plant’s life are often overlooked but are among the most crucial to success. Getting the best root system possible at this stage will not only increase final yield dramatically, but also give a healthier plant in general. This in turn allows you to make the most of your time and space with a faster growing plant able to support more flowers. Here we outline the ultimate method to get an outrageous root system in your plant from day 1.
We will cover how to easily make a homemade hybrid dripper system with integrated air pruning, which makes young plants produce an abundance of fresh healthy roots. Also we’re going to explore in depth the optimum nutrient feeding regime, so your young plants will get further, faster with their first tender steps. Kind of like a kindergarten for your little green babies.
To get the Ultimate Root Zone using this system you will need to aquire the following (you may already have a lot of this kicking around):
3 Inch Rockwool cubes (1 inch hole, standard height)
Peat pellets (disks of dried compressed peat that expand in water)
Large plant tray -must be at least twice as large as the space needed for your rockwool, at least 3 inches deep and watertight.
Smaller plant tray for tiny seedling stage (optional)
A hard metal screen to sit on top of the large plant tray (cheap greenhouse shelving works well)
A mid-size pump suitable for dripper systems
An in-line filter between the pump and dripper manifold A dripper manifold, to split the drip tube to each plant
Dripper tubing (buy a couple of metres more than you need)
24 hour timer, in 15 minute segments
A gentle weaning.
There are plenty of articles about cloning and planting seed, so right now let’s skip that and assume you are already gleefully about to take some cuttings or plant some seeds in preparation for the next crop.
All healthy root zones are born from a high quality soil or hydroponic substrate. Every seasoned grower has their own favourite first planting medium, whether soil, rockwool, perlite, clay pellets or coco; pretty much any of these work just fine. But we don’t want to settle on “fine”, we want the ultimate!Peat Pellets with no added NPK nutrient for the first couple of days give the best start to many of our favourite plants. Peat pellets are full of natural gentle nutrients, so by using them at this early stage we give an organic weaning when the plant is at it’s most fragile (this will ease the transition If you switch to mineral feed later in the grow). It also has a little more moisture retention than rockwool, which we will use to our advantage in the next few stages.
Soak the peat pellets in some warm water, pH adjusted to 5.6. At this stage you should not add any NPK fertiliser, only add a little root booster (Rhizotonic or similar). Adding Trichoderma fungus at this stage too (Biopak/Aktrivator or similar) adds an amazing secondary root system that grows with your plant’s own roots, allowing more efficient nutrient uptake and also guarding against pythium and other substrate horrors! Using a good enzyme product throughout the cycle helps the rhizosphere stay healthy, process dead tissue and convert it quickly into nutrients.
Fast flushing of rockwool.
After the first roots peek out from within your peat pellet it’s time to transplant into your rockwool cubes. Before you do this you need to remove the residual lime present in the rockwool from manufacturing. This must be flushed out fully to prevent the substrate’s internal pH being raised way too high.
A common misconception is that rock-wool progressively raises the pH of your plants, this is untrue as rockwool is pH stable once flushed properly. The reason pH can rise in the substrate is actually due to the plants active growth and is a good sign (as long as you correct it back down before it gets too high!). More on this later.
Common practice is to soak rockwool cubes overnight, but this is overly time consuming. Much faster is a three stage flush:
First soak them in hot water, squeezing them around, and generally being a little rough with them to break the cubes up a bit, giving a fast flush of the lime. Leave them to soak for 5 minutes then squeeze the cubes out and discard all this liquid.
Flush two is in hot water again, you can treat them nicer this time, just