GREETINGS ONCE AGAIN MY VERY GREEN FRIENDS. Today I’m going to babble about roots, cannabis roots, specifically in containers. I’m going to give you all some great tips and mostly do a heady article here for you with a ton of great info regarding the subject in general. Many of you don’t really pay as much attention to your roots as you should and this can cause a plethora of problems. Some of this is straight up fundamental to someone like me that has been growing for half a century, but some of it is a tad more technical—but I made an illustration! So, let’s dive in and become better growers, shall we?
A Word, Especially to the Pro Growers, from Rev
I found along my path of growing and learning, that once you reach a point where you are actually a professional grower, capable of supreme troubleshooting if needed, but it seldom is because you almost always grow happy ass cannabis plants. Warning! You may become “too comfy” and overconfident, then you may start to literally forget some fundamentals; that can bite you in the ass down the road. This article is focused on fundamental root knowledge and happiness.
To the newer growers, this is some good stuff here for you as well. This article really deals mostly with all-natural cannabis growing, in containers. Truly, once you dial in the natural world of growing, it’s pretty much totally fundamentals—wink.
Always best (in my opinion and experience) to get good at starting your seeds in soil so the roots start out very familiar with their environment. If you do choose to start seeds in paper towels and/or submerge them in water for a time, then use some good spring water (bottled is fine); at least there are minerals present the seedling can make immediate use of.
Containers Are an Alien Environment to Roots
Let’s think about that, eh? Seriously, roots are from and of the earth. When growing in containers they are very limited in many ways we do know about, and very likely limited in other ways we don’t know about. One of the huge advantages of using a living and powerful soil mix in containers is the elevated temperatures the roots exist in. Compared to the temperatures they would be operating at actually in the ground. The earth is very insulating and even on a 90-degree day, even a few inches down into the soil it’s more like 64 degrees. The insulating properties also keep a large amount of the roots only changing a few degrees over any 24-hour period. However, in containers in warm grow rooms or just in a very warm environment, the root temperatures (soil) can easily get up around 75 degrees or more; because, they are not insulated in the containers. Ya follow?
Knowing this, allows you to use (actually leverage) that accelerated metabolism that your microlife and your roots are functioning in. In these temperatures, the bacterial microbeasties can double their populations every half hour or so. Fungi hyphae (fungi tentacles) can travel 6” in 24 hours through the soil. If you know anything about exponential mathematics you can see how the bacteria are going to be in the bazillions in well under 10 days; they are only limited by food, water, and air. Use powerful all-natural soil mixes here, keeping in mind a lot of that food will be used by the micro (and mini) life in the container. Those nutrients are only temporarily immobilized in all the soil life, what goes around comes around, eventually to the plant—heh heh. A powerful soil mix insures lots of food for all the life.
Use some perlite in your soil mix (like 20%) and do not compact your soil, and that will upgrade the amount of air. Make sure your water has some dissolved minerals in it. Around 30-80 PPM and no chlorine/chloramine and good ratios of magnesium and calcium; that will make the water capable of sustaining supernaturally large populations of all soil life; including the plant. Huge upsides like, mean vigor, super hearty, large yielding, elegant tasting, and deadly potent—genetics are a factor, obviously.
Soil Compaction & Soil pH Microclimates
SOIL COMPACTION: No two ways about it man, soil compaction—specifically over compaction—is wicked bad, and often deadly to plants. This is a pretty straightforward dynamic; always use around 20-25% perlite, or pumice, and vermiculite will also work here, however, vermiculite absorbs tons of water and can hold 36x the amount of water the same volume of soil can hold. This can lead to overwatering problems fast if you are not savvy with your watering skills. Especially when using powerful living soil, this is a critical move being savvy with your watering skills.
Another one that has gotten me before is if you lift your pots to feel how light they are to tell if they need watering yet. When you set your pots back down, do it GENTLY my green friends, very gently. Roughly plunking them back down will lead to soil compaction issues inside of 20 days; so, pay attention here. You will often see unexplained nitrogen deficiencies as the first sign of soil compaction; pH is likely dropping as well as soil compaction continues. Where the air is very limited now in the soil, anaerobic fungi often colonize the soil bringing the pH way down eventually causing sad plant drooping with limited turgor—shortly before ugly death.
When transplanting … here’s one where I will make you a challenge you can test out quickly, at your next transplant. There are so many of you that likely do this and what “this” means is packing down your soil when you transplant too aggressively. Try on one single pot next time you transplant, and don’t compact it at all, just give it a light shake—very light—or, barely tamp it down—barely—and watch what happens in your garden. That plant will kick major and extra ass compared to the others; assuming you indeed were guilty of this.
SOIL pH MICROCLIMATES: The rhizosphere is the narrow region of soil that immediately surrounds the roots and is directly influenced by root secretions, these secretions (and dead discarded cells) favor certain types of microbial life and depending upon what the plant needs she will “summon” the appropriate life to help her absorb (eat) some nutrients (food). The microlife are sustained by the plant sloughing off dead cells and/or via secretions. Different areas of the roots have different micro-climates as far as pH and other factors are concerned. In the illustration you can see the rhizosphere is that multicolored area around the root. The colors represent variable pH micro-zones in the rhizosphere, keep in mind these areas can change anytime the plants wants them to, depending on the food she wants/needs.
Various elements are available more or less depending upon pH of the environment those elements are in. Like iron (Fe) for example. Fe is only very available under pH 6.5, while potassium (K) and sulfur (S) are only both highly available above pH 6.0; so rather than you having to manipulate the soil pH the microbial life do it for you in the soil, in all the places that really matter anyways. This ability to control the micro-zones in the rhizosphere allows the plant to “binge” feed on elements she needs that are normally harder to absorb so she can use them immediately and store some extra for flowering.
Healthy roots growing in all-natural living soil should not look bright white. They should be stained with soil colors mostly from all the microlife chelating nutrients into the roots. That’s right—that’s my story and I’m sticking it to ya!
The moral of this perspective is that if you use living soil, in containers, all this stuff in the rhizosphere is happening really fast because of soil (root) temperatures. Think about an ant hill on a cold day. Ants all milling around slowly. Same ant hill on a hot day and those little guys are in hyperdrive! Metabolism is the magic word and it is what we are leveraging in its accelerated state. This is why it’s so important to have your soil be powerful enough so you can just add water; because adding ANY liquid nutrients in any kind of “recommended by the manufacturer” amounts will almost always send your balanced microbeasties into chaos for a time—10 days or so of not doing their jobs well before coming back into balance/equilibrium. It makes a huge difference in flowering especially. Adios for now amigos and I hope you enjoyed this article—cheers.