Growing with Clones
Cloning is fairly easy and should be done when plants are in vegetative growth. Cloning involves taking a piece of a known mother plant and creating other plants with the same genetic makeup. A mother plant should be a vigorous, healthy female plant with plenty of shoots to take cuttings from.
When clones are taken in vegetative growth and rooted, they will grow quickly right off the bat. This is a good habit to get into for cutting clones.
Clones taken from plants that don’t show any flowers (i.e. 2 weeks into flowering) may produce small buds during the 18 hour rooting photoperiod. However, they rejuvenate into vegetative growth rather quickly when they are put in a vegetative light cycle or long daylight days after they form roots.
Plants that are cloned during the flowering process (when flowers are noticeable) will take longer to revert into fast vegetative growth and time is lost. Sometimes, depending on many factors such as the strain, plants will not revert to healthy vegetative growth. This means that plants will take on a permanent one to four leaf growth pattern, and they will not be as compact as they would if they had a regular leaf pattern of five, seven, or nine leaves. The plants will be far less productive than clones taken during vegetative growth.
The stage of the budding process at which the clones are taken has a big impact on the quality of the new cuttings’ growth. Clones taken toward the end of the budding process have more potential problems than those taken earlier in the budding process. Checking leaf texture also helps in determining plant quality. If the leaves of the new cuttings become waxy and stiff, unlike normal soft and flexible growth, then problems can be expected. Plants with the waxy material should be pulled, because they will be unproductive. Plants with an abnormal leaf pattern but normal-textured leaves will probably rejuvenate to become productive.
Plants That Are Started from Seed
When seed is used for growing outdoors, a grower has the option of cutting female clones when the plant sex is determined. The female sex can be determined by finding pistils growing from the nodes (stalk and branch intersections). Looking for early flower formations is advised, too. Extreme emphasis must be placed on the importance of this knowledge. Plants with the pistils should not have male pollen sacks along the stalks. Those plants that have pollen and pistils are hermaphrodites, and these plants can make an unknown quantity of seed.
Hermaphroditism can creep in at any time, although it occurs very rarely, especially in a quality garden.
- 10×20-inch tray and matching propagation lid (7 inches high).
- Propagation mat or heat pad.
- Thirty or more 11/2-inch Oasis propagation cubes, rockwool cubes or small plastic cutting containers.
- Vitamin B1 1.7oz (50ml).
- Rooting hormone.
- Fluorescent light fixture with bulbs, or Envirolites®.
- Timer (optional).
- 4 to 6 shoots should be left above the spot where the cut is made. This is a critical step. The new cutting-to-be will have about 3 shoots at the top and 2 more down the stalk.
- The next step is removing 2 bottom side shoots. Different strains will have different growth patterns of the spaces between the node intersections. It is best to have a cutting in which both cut nodes can fit into the rooting medium.
- Next, the cutting should be placed in a jar of water. The procedure is repeated until the desired number of cuttings has been taken. It is better for a novice to take only a few cuttings at a time, so that the learning curve will be faster. There is no point in taking 30 cuttings, only to find that one mistake (e.g., drying out the rooting medium) ruined the whole batch.
- The next step is soaking Oasis cubes (organic), rockwool cubes (not organic), or cutting containers with a fresh soilless mix like Sunshine® #2 mix, Jiffy Mix, or Pro Mix. Oasis cubes and rockwool are simpler for the novice. A recommended organic method is soaking rooting medium in a liquid mixture. For instance, in 1-gallon of water add 1/2 the recommended strength of liquid kelp and a few drops of Vitamin B1. Alternatively, a few drops of Vitamin B1 works well on its own. Some people use only plain water and get high survival.
- Now excess water should be squeezed out of the growing medium. Too much water, and the rooting process becomes slower. If the rooting medium is too dry, the cuttings can wilt and die. Wet, but not too wet, is the way to get decent results. Some say that if the rooting medium is not too wet, the cuttings form new roots more quickly, because the plant will tend to seek out water by spreading its roots. However, this is a fine line because too little water will be severely detrimental to the cuttings’ chances of survival.
- A nail can be used to make holes in the cubes or growing mix, if no holes are present. The hole should not go all of the way through the cloning medium. The 2 side-shoot nodes should be covered by the cloning medium without the stem going through the bottom.
- The bottom 2 nodes of the cutting are dipped into a rooting hormone, then placed in the cubes or containers. This procedure is repeated for all the cuttings.
If the distances between the cut nodes are too far apart to be covered by the rooting cubes, then an option is to stack a cube on top of another cube. If soilless mix— perlite, vermiculite, etc.—is used, then a deeper container will solve the depth problem.
- The clones are then placed in a tray and covered with the lid (a piece of clear, raised plastic designed to fit the tray). The tray can be placed on a propagating mat, or 1-inch above a heating pad, especially if the clones are rooting in a cold area. Clones will root faster when the roots receive proper heat (approximately 70°F). If clones are rooting at room temperature, the roots in the medium will be cooler than room temperature.
- Fluorescent tubes should be placed 2 to 4 inches above dome (or Envirolites® at 2 feet above clones for every 4×4 area) to supply adequate lighting during rooting. The lights should be set on a timer to run for 18 hours a day. However, rooting clones under a 24 hour photoperiod does the trick. Nevertheless, it is a good idea to give the plants a 6 hour rest. It is natural for plants to take a nightcap since that is the world they are accustomed to.
The plastic lid should not have any cracks or warps because clones could dry up and die overnight, especially babied clones from a weak strain. However, some strains are more sensitive to a bad lid than others.
Some growers mist several times a day. This can give better results. Sometimes lids retain a lot of moisture; sometimes the moisture escapes easily from under the lid. Roots may start growing out of bottoms and sides of the cubes within 1 to 4 weeks. The time length varies from strain to strain.
Periodically adding small amounts of plain water to the cubes or mix is a good idea, especially if the medium seem gets a little dry. Oversoaking is wrong and is not going to help matters. Overwatering slows down the rooting process and can also cause stem rot. Overwatered clones that do make it are often weak and may not form a strong plant.
Some growers don’t mist at all, leave their cuttings fully exposed to the air, and yet get decent results while believing that only the strong survive. However, this method causes the roots to use up a lot of water. Therefore, frequent watering to the roots is a must when moistening the roots with this method, or keeping the roots sitting in a shallow solution of water / nutrient solution. Less air is available to the roots with constant liquid saturation.
If rooting medium sits full-time in a solution of liquid, the cuttings will be slow rooters, and the cuttings will develop a skinnier network of roots, which will put the plant behind in terms of productivity.
As soon as roots show from the cubes or mix, the clones should be transplanted into the desired bucket, such as 5-gallon containers.
Sometimes, if several clones are started at the same time, some may seem to root, while others look weak or dying. Weak-looking cuttings can be given a little tug so that a grower knows which cuttings are rooting and which ones aren’t. The cuttings that resist have anchoring roots, while the really weak or dying clones will come out easily.
Plants can be transplanted at any time of the vegetative growth phase. As a general rule, plants should be able to spread their roots and not become too root-bound. Plants should not be transplanted during flowering.
Plants can be transplanted from one medium to another. For example, plants in rockwool, clay, perlite, soilless mix, or dirt can go into any other medium.
Plant roots will adapt to various root environments. The key is to feed the roots properly at all times. For example, a plant in peat moss or soilless mix that is transplanted to clay or perlite will need a new feeding program, because soilless mix can be constantly irrigated or it can go days between irrigation. However, roots located in a medium such as clay cannot go days between waterings, given that plants are grown under a strong climate. The same holds true if a plant is transplanted from a medium like rockwool or clay into soil or soilless mix.
Roots in soil or soilless mix anchor in the medium to keep roots intact. That makes transplanting a snap, especially if the mix is neither too wet nor too dry. A grower should always keep soilless mix somewhere between too dry and too wet.
Cloning Outdoor Plants
Outdoor clones can be taken at any time before budding, but sooner is better for obtaining a large plant size.
Clones taken from budding plants will be less productive. Those cuttings have the potential for not reverting to vegetative growth, and may never grow healthily, which makes for poor production.
For example, two clones taken at the same time from two different flowering mothers may have two different responses. One may put on healthy vegetative mass with the proper photoperiod, while the other may flower under the same photoperiod and produce low-productive buds. Both plants will grow slowly at first, whether they continue to bud or put on vegetative growth.
Cloning budding plants is not recommended, because the results are chancy, and such poor methodology is a waste of time if growing a productive, healthy crop is the desired result.
Rooting Clones for Outdoor Growing Using Natural Light
Cuttings may be taken from mother plants that are growing indoors or outdoors. The procedure for preparing cubes or mix is the same as described earlier in this chapter, except they are placed outdoors in a miniature sealed plastic (6ml) cold frame when the daylight hours are decent (approximately 16 hours) and days are getting longer. The Oasis cube, rockwool cube, or mix surrounding the cutting should be buried under dirt or site mix to keep the roots warm in cool weather or cool in hot weather.
For smooth rooting, a grower should check the rooting progress periodically and water the cubes or mix when they begin to dry out. Outdoor predators can damage a locale. For example, a nosy bear can leave holes all over a plastic hut.