CLONING ON YOUR OWN
The word ‘cloning’ conjures up dystopian images of sci-fi experiments gone bad. Movies like “The Island”, Sam Rockwell’s phenomenal performance in “Moon” and that army in Star Wars that was based on one very prolific bounty hunter. But what does it mean when we’re talking about cannabis?
Cloning plants has been done for generations and is a key component of how new strains. Cloning is removing a clipping from the original “mother” plant, allowing it to grow roots of its own, and transplanting it into the soil. Once transplanted, the plant will fully mature into a complete clone of the “mother” plant. This allows you to harvest the exact same quality crop from multiple sources over and over and is also key to sustainable quality control of a given crop and keeping the sex of the plant pre-determined. The clone will be an exact genetic copy of the mother plant. Whether you are growing oranges, strawberries, zucchini, or cannabis, cloning is a sustainable and effective way to produce high-quality products consistently.
Once a plant has reached a stable point in its growth cycle, about 6 to 8 weeks from when it’ll begin producing seeds, it is in the “pre-flowering” phase and ready to be cloned. A younger branch is cut off at a 45-degree angle while a rooting hormone is applied to the newly sliced open base of the branch. The branch is allowed to root in a medium, which can be anything from a damp paper towel or a cup of water to a traditional pot of organic soil. Once the roots are a couple of inches in length, the plant should be moved to a new, permanent location. This new location will allow it to grow into a fully matured clone of the mother plant it was cut from.
You can also buy clones from cultivators like Dark Heart Nursery who have perfected the process and eliminate that awkward learning phase. Ideally, these should be planted as soon as you bring them home. However, in some cases, this is not practical. If you do need to store them temporarily before transplanting, here are some tips.
Water your clones with a dilute nutrient solution (400 to 600 ppm) and place them under a low-intensity fluorescent fixture; T8 or T12 bulbs are ideal for this purpose, T5 bulbs are more intense and can cause plants to begin “stretching” before you are ready. Be sure to keep the cubes moist, but don’t allow standing water to accumulate in the tray. This step will slow the rate of growth, keeping them a manageable size, and ensuring that some clones aren’t dwarfed because they are shaded out by larger ones. As your clones do begin to stretch be sure to rearrange them to prevent some clones from being “shaded out” and transplant them as soon as possible.
Before you transplant your clone, you must prepare your media, a.k.a what your plant will grow in. Some types of media require soaking, conditioning, or some other form of preparation. Coco coir blocks, for example, need to be soaked and then broken up. Pre-mixed coco coir substrates are easy to work with and can be forgiving. Popular amendments include organic or synthetic fertilizer, oyster shell meal (for pH buffering), and various substances to improve soil structure.
Next, fill your pots with the chosen media. Fill to 1 inch from the lip of the pot and gently tamp soil by pressing it down with your hand. By gently tamping you help ensure that air pockets have not developed in the pot; air pockets can dry out your roots and will negatively affect plant health. After tamping you should have 1 1/2 to 2 inches of space between the lip of the pot and the media. This space is important so that you do not overflow the pot while watering. We’re ready to transplant!
To start this process, you want to dig a small well in the media. Grab a Rockwool Cube and dig the hole about twice the size of the cube (3 to 4 inches square). Place the clone in well so that the top of the cube should be level with the media. If the rockwool cube is exposed to too much air it will dry out easily. If the media level is above the cube it may come into contact with the stem. This can cause fungal disease. The stem of the clone should be as vertical as possible. Sometimes this means that the rockwool cube will need to be planted crooked. We find that having a vertical stem leads to superior growing results. Next, fill in media around the clone’s cube. Be sure that the bottom and sides of the cube are in good contact with the media. The rockwool cube should be planted so that just the very top of the cube is exposed. If the cube becomes exposed through watering, gently pack some soil back around it. After several weeks the clone will be well enough rooted that this will not be an issue.
Finally, thoroughly water in in your newly transplanted clone. Thorough initial watering helps ensure there are no air pockets or try spots in your media, and that the cube comes into good contact with it. For the first week or two be sure to check the moisture of the actual rockwool cube. In some cases, it is possible for the potting media to wick moisture away from the cube. In these cases, the potting media would be moist, but the cube may be too dry to support the plant. If this happens, pour about 1 cup of irrigation water onto the cube itself. Within two weeks the plant will develop a stronger root system, and this will not be an issue. – Dark Heart Nursery’s Transplanting Guide
Whether you’re looking to get a micro license or grow as a hobby, you’ll feel way more connected with your bud by getting your hands dirty!