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Plants are an amazing physical manifestation by nature of the old occult adage ‘as above, so below’. If you were to take an above and below ground photo of a plant or tree and its root system, the roots would appear to be a mirror image of the plant above.
If you are to take this into account, the results that are achievable these days in small containers are absolutely amazing! Space restrictions are typically the determining factor in the decision to use containers in the first place. As such, most people do not have the space to put soil filled garbage cans on their balcony or in their basement. Realistically, utilizing the smallest container possible for your desired plant size is the best way to go. This keeps labor, costs and space required at the most efficient balance with your personal gardening goals. Think about it: Bigger containers require more grow media, nutrients or amendments, water and labor. Depending on your setup, larger containers may push you over your desired humidity levels within your grow space, requiring more water-from-air extraction or air replacement. This could require new equipment and higher power bills. If you’re running a separate veg & flower room as I do, starting in smaller containers allows you to take up a smaller footprint and requires less lighting. My veg room runs 1 x 1000watt – and my flower room runs 2 or 3. This keeps your equipment and electricity requirements as low as possible during the veg stage.
For me, this raised 2 questions;
I want to use the smallest containers the most efficient way possible. Maximizing the root dispersion throughout the totality of your container is the best way to utilize as much of your container volume as possible. How do I achieve this?
I have to transplant, at least 2 times. Since I’m doing the work, is there a way I can use this to my advantage?
My research ultimately led me to cloth pots. Cloth pots employ ‘air pruning’ as a way to promote even root dispersal throughout your grow media. Basically, because the cloth pot allows for air to reach all sides of the pot, the root assumes it is coming to the soils surface when it senses the increase in air ratio and branches off in a new direction instead of becoming ‘root bound’ and just circling the bottom of your pot looking for somewhere to go, as it would in a standard non-breathable container. This promotes a very expanded, well developed root system which branches off in every direction in your pot, more evenly dispersing itself with many tiny capillaries creeping all over the place.
Hot Tip: Use expanded clay pellets in your tray below your cloth pot to keep the cloth pot off the tray, allowing 360 degree air pruning. May as well use it to its full potential!
The only draw back with cloth post is the cost. As such I have not yet replaced all of my small pots with cloth. For my last transplant I go from 3 gallon plastic into 5 or 7 gallon cloth. It is said that a cloth pot can be equivalent in results to a plastic pot twice the size; a 5 gallon cloth could be equivalent to a 10 gallon plastic container. Even so, replacing 60 pots at $5 – $20 a piece is costly – especially when you already have pots.
Mycorrhizae is a beneficial fungi that attaches itself in a symbiotic way to a plants root system. Upon colonizing the plants root system the addition structure functionally increases the plants ability to uptake nutrients from the soil. I figured what the hell, fifteen bucks, it’s worth a shot. The results are in – it works!
By increasing my number of transplants and utilizing mycorrhizae at each transplant I have drastically increased the root development within the small containers, more efficiently utilizing the available media and allowing for additional doses of mycorrhizea to be added. I go from 1 quart, to 1 gallon, to 3 gallon and lastly to 5 or 7 gallon cloth pots for the final growing stage, adding a good dose of myco. every transplant for a total of 4 doses (I also put a pinch into the whole I put my germinated seedlings into).
Check out the size of these plants, the amazing well dispersed root structure and how much room is still in the media – no root bound plants out of this whole batch and some are as big as my 3 gallon pots already! Notice how the bottom has well dispersed roots as opposed to a couple thick ‘tap roots’ circling the bottom. Also, notice how the root structure in the side photo is peaking out of the soil almost right up to the ground line. This is amazing to see in a plastic pot with plants this size. Keep in mind that no additional supplements to promote root growth were used aside from the myco, which goes in line with organic growing practices.
All in a days work! The next transplant will be another good dose of myco. and into the cloth pots for the flowering stage. Bigger and better roots = bigger and better fruits! Too many growers neglect whats beneath the soil, when really it is the most important part the plant. A plant with a strong root system is more resilient and will provide you with amazing yields. Although I applied this to cannabis this is applicable to all vegetables, fruits, herbs and medicinal plants. I’ll be using this on my indoor tomato and pepper plants this winter.
Becoming Self Sufficient
In this day and age it’s all the more important to begin making the shift from a consumer based mentality to a producer (and creator) based mentality. I encourage people to begin to produce at least one thing in enough abundance that you do not have to purchase any of it. Whether it be tomatoes, jalapenos, dill, sage or cannabis, producing something will spur you towards more independence and freedom! This is the first summer I have attempted an outdoor vegetable garden. It’s been a learning experience and I’m really looking forward to having some of my own organically grown peppers, corn and tomatoes. Good luck with your gardening, be sure to maximize your your efforts!
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