Transplanting cannabis in living soil is a lot like transplanting in most mediums. Special attention to air exposure is always important, because all the growing related life you are interested in breathes air; roots and microlife.
Transplanting, along with cloning, and germinating cannabis are all skills that make growing better and easier to do consistently well. If your skills are weak in any of those three, I strongly suggest you upgrade your skillset. Trust me, once you do have all three of those skills you won’t be able to imagine how you managed before that! Heh heh.
Generally speaking, whenever you have a transplanting issue, it’s normally from “feeding” them, or a sudden lack of air exposure to the roots that are adapted to have a lot of air exposure. Never use anything from a bottle on your fresh transplants, no tonics or B-vitamins, etc. Just good, dechlorinated groundwater is perfect.
Alright then earthlings, let’s rock and/or roll with today’s “Letters” to Rev…
Transplanting Cannabis in Living Soil Question #1: Why Are My Aero-Clones Hurting in Soil?
FROM: Tommie, Vista, CA
“Hey Rev, I recently got an aero cloner like you use, and I followed your advice with no complaints there, it works great. My problem is whenever I transplant them into their 7-inch (about half gallon containers), about 2/3rds of them die, fast and ugly, as you say. TLO living soil all the way, and I use dechlorinated 55 PPM water, no liquid anything from bottles. Can you help me out here?”
Rev’s Answer to Q1
Hey dude, this is likely an easy fix, so no worries. First, I would highly advise you to go from bare-root aero-clones into something more like a 3-inch pot. I would also highly advise you to use a mellow soil (quality bagged soil) when you transplant these clones into soil their first time. TLO soil is a bit potent for this job. Lastly, add some perlite to this soil, like a 15% to 20% cut, or so. This will totally fix you, and here’s why…
Your problem is likely not a hardening-off type problem but consider this if applicable. Your problem is that these aero roots are all adapted to a wet, highly oxygenated environment. When you put them into soil, you drastically reduce their exposure to air, and they basically “choke” to various degrees. Along with my recommendations above, use proper containers that allow max aeration and no CO2 lockup. See this article for more info on CO2 lockup: Growing Containers II – Skunk Magazine. Also, never compact the soil in these containers, like at all.
By ‘mellow soil’ above for example, for this I use bagged ocean forest soil/TLO soil/perlite/earthworm castings. But it can be as simple as 4-parts Ocean Forest soil, mixed with 1-part TLO soil, with some added perlite, and you are all good. Ocean Forest, or any G&B potting soil with added perlite are fine as well.
Transplanting Cannabis in Living Soil Question #2: Containers to Outdoor?
FROM: Greg, Del Mar, CA
“Last year I had a huge problem when I transplanted my awesome healthy 12-inch clones to their raised beds, almost all of them looked like they were going to die for a time, and they suffered hard for about 30 days before they started actually growing well again. I lost a lot of VALUABLE growing time while they recovered. It wasn’t hardening off or soil shock, my soils are all time tested and not too powerful or anything. I also mix some of my indoor soil with the outdoor soil for transplant fill-in soil. I want to avoid this problem in 2022, please help Rev! Thank you.”
Rev’s Answer to Q2
A lot like my answer to the question above, again here, your problem is likely (highly) to be a problem of aeration x roots. Coming out of a container, there is high aeration on all sides, top and bottom. In the ground (raised beds too) there is only high-ish air exposure on top—ya see? So, all the roots in the container, around all sides, top and bottom, have grown/adapted to a high air exposed environment. These roots don’t operate very well suddenly choked off from air exposure; as they are, when suddenly placed into the ground.
Here’s your fix my green friend: Simply leave about 1.5- to 2-inches of the root ball up above the soil level you are transplanting into. Use bark mulch to even things up—chunky or shredded, I like chunky myself. This keeps some of the existing roots at full power using the high exposure to air. Try it and you’ll see the difference. This dynamic also applies to container-to-container transplants as well (as in photo above).
Transplanting Cannabis in Living Soil Question #3: When to Transplant New Sprouts?
FROM: Mad Saxman, Lordsburg, NM
“I was wondering if there’s a best time to transplant new sprouts? I’m indoors and I think maybe I have been transplanting them too soon and have had some bad outcomes recently that I can’t figure out. They’re fine and dandy until the transplant, then they wilt and die.”
Rev’s Answer to Q3
Well amigo, given the limited info, I would first say read question #1 above regarding root x air exposure. Air circulation and air exchange are both also essential here for consistent success. I trust you aren’t using any humidity domes; they are all bad. 100% humidity with limited or no air exchange is always bad when growing cannabis. There is also that hardening off thing as well. If you sprout under weaker lighting, then transplant them and place them under intense lighting—that’s bad. They need to be eased into way more intense lighting over a couple days or so.
Two other big issues I see when peeps have this problem are, feeding them and soil compaction. Do not fertilize your plants with any liquids for 2 weeks after any transplant, no B vitamins or anything else. I never use these things, ever, but to each their own. Also, don’t compact your soil in the new containers after transplant at all. Don’t use wet soil as your transplanting fill soil. It should be slightly moist. Just water the plant about 2 hours before transplanting, and don’t water the new container for at least a day (24 hours).
What I like to do is put all my 3-inch pots with new plants in them on a tray, then I keep about ½ inch-high water level in that tray. This keeps the plants very unstressed and kicking ass 100%.
Rev’s Best Tip for Transplanting Cannabis in Living Soil
In the photo above you see the bottom of one of my favorite growing containers, the Plant Warrior by Grow Pro. That little inverted net-pot floor is the bomber for aeration regarding freshly transplanted plants. You see, the root-ball is in the same shape as the container, so as long as you are transplanting from Plant Warrior to Plant Warrior container, the root-ball just fits right down onto the new inverted section. This gives your plants great aeration to the roots right where they are used to getting great aeration, surrounding that inverted net-pot section. I have these pots in 1-, 2-, 3-, and 5-gallon sizes.
That’s a wrap for today my esteemed homeskillets. I’ll be back for another article next Tuesday right here at SKUNK. In the meantime, maybe go have a look over at Kingdom Organic Seeds for some kickass exotic cannabis seeds to start your next garden with. For more info on all-natural growing in living soil by just adding water, and recycling your soil, check out my True Living Organics book, 2nd Edition on Amazon. L8r G8rs…
- REv 😊
I'm The Rev, and I have been with SKUNK for about a decade now. I hail from Southern California, spent mucho time in Northern California, and now reside in Southern Oregon; always coastal. I am an all natural style cannabis grower and I have written a couple books on the subject - check out True Living Organics 2nd Edition on Amazon - I have been growing for over 45 years, and I have been breeding cannabis for over 30 years. Check out kingdomorganicseeds.com to see some exotic selections. Growing connoisseur cannabis is what I teach mostly, growing it in living soil without using liquid organic nutrients to feed the plant. I am also a highly skilled synthetics grower, hydroponics, aeroponics, DWC/SWC/NFT, Ebb and Flow, and soilless, but I cringe when smoking synthetic grown herbs, so for the last 15 years or so I preach the artisan style of all natural growing, specializing in container growing. Cheers and welcome aboard.