When the roots of your plants have begun to outgrow their containers, it is time for your plants to be transplanted (Potted up). Potting up is necessary to allow your plant's roots to continue to grow, and is therefore a necessity for the overall health of your plants. When a plant becomes root bound (when the roots don’t have any medium to grow in) it can result in, slow growth and unhealthy plants, basically not good growing.
Transplanting can be a traumatic experience for your plants and there are precautions you should take to ensure success.
You should transplant when several roots start to stick out the bottom of your container. You should not do this too often but if you wait too long it can cause stunted or no growth, reduced yield, and increased disease susceptibility to name a few.
During potting up you should disturb the root system as little as possible. Even if you are very careful after transplanting you may have damaged the roots, so it will be hard for plants to take in water until new roots begin to grow. You should water your plants and keep the medium moist. It may also be a good idea to water your plants with a good water-soluble fertilizer that is intended for transplants. I have recommended fertilizers with Vitamin B1, like Hormex (always read and follow mixing instructions). After transplanting, your plants will need time to adjust and re-establish their root systems. They need low levels of nitrogen and potassium but will require large quantities of phosphorous. Also, studies have shown that a weak sugar and water solution made with plain sugar from the grocery store given to a plant after transplanting can reduce transplant shock in plants. It only helped with some plant species, but adding a teaspoon per gallon of sugar will not harm any plant, it is worth a try. The reasoning is that plants use sugars just like you and I. They usually make their sugars with photosynthesis but with limited water uptake from transplanting, giving your plants some extra ‘energy’ may help them keep growing or recover faster. If you give the plants sugar I suggest unrefined sugar if you can find it but try others there are many types of sugars, they all end in –OSE – sucrose, fructose, glucose, dextrose, maltose etc. are all sugars. (Now go read the back of your favorite cereal and see how much sugar it has.)

During the period after transplantation, your plant will have a reduced ability to absorb water and nutrients at first, and as a result they should have subdued light. I think fluorescents are best for this and that the HID is too intense. I think you could use an LED like the Tri-Band from HTGSupply.com if you kept it a few feet above the plants. (see my previous posts on growing with LED) I have begun to think that LED’s could be good for seedlings - with their low heat and high light output they can be placed high above the seedlings and cover a very large area compared to a fluorescent.

I have also read that people recommend you transplant late in the lights on cycle to give the plants all night to recover. You should also make sure the pot you are transplanting into is large enough for the roots of your transplants to grow and expand in. Growing indoors means you may have to grow in a small space  so you want to keep the plants in containers  that fit the space and the plant

You may come across articles that say while translating you should trim back the plant – I do not do this, I just can’t accept that cutting off leaves is good for a plant. Leaves are where the plants do photosynthesis so they provide energy to the plants. The logic with trimming is that if you remove the leaves this is less area for water loss and the plant won’t need as much water until the roots can grow. I would wager that trimming back the plants means you loose out on yields and over all growth later on, but I can’t back that up with an experiment yet. If you keep the roots in tact you should not have much of a problem. If you are transplanting a plant from say outdoors where you may not be able to get all the roots, THEN maybe I would recommend cutting back the plant so it does not die due to dehydration.

When the root systems are disturbed little, fertilizer is properly applied, and light is kept at a minimum for a few days your plants should show few signs of transplanting shock, or wilting.

Good Growing,
Dr. E.R. Myers

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