Cloning plants is a common practice for gardeners who want to streamline and standardize their production. For some plants cloning is reproductive process that occurs naturally. For most home gardeners and greenhouse growers cloning involves taking cuttings from mature mother plants and encouraging them to grow their own roots. If done successfully a grower can produce exact genetic copies of their mother plant without investing in a new batch of seeds. Cloning is a great gardening practice because it allows a grower to hand pick clones from mother plants with specific genetic traits. Additionally they can expect to produce a crop with uniform growth, a shorter growth cycle and to save on input costs. While there are many tricks and tips out there for taking the perfect clones it all starts with using healthy mother plants and proper sanitation. It is also common for gardeners employing cloning techniques to use rooting products like Clonex Gel to seal the freshly cut plant stems or other solutions like Microbe Life Root Dip or SUPERthrive to help with nutrient uptake and reduce transplant shock. Also, ▫️Click here▫️ for 5 simple tips to improve cloning success, or check out our ▫️full workshop slides▫️ for advanced techniques!
Propagation is essentially the task of starting and caring for new plants or freshly cut clones. Like any plant a seedling needs light, food and water to sustain themselves in their early stage, but it’s important not to overdo it when meeting these needs. A young plant will do best with access to a mild nutrient solution. Often times a seed begins its life in a starter plug under a humidity dome before be transplanted into a larger piece of rockwool or a container filled with soil or another media. If cuttings are taken from a mature plant, the small genetic copies are inserted into a system designed to encourage the growth of new roots, like a Turbo Klone aeroponic cloner. During propagation a humidity level north of 90% is preferred while other stages or growth are best suited for a 40-60% range. ▫️Read more here▫️ for some tips on starting from seed and caring for young plants!
In order to grow to its full potential a plant needs to create a sugar called glucose. Plants do this in a process called photosynthesis. This involves the compound chlorophyll collecting light energy and using it to convert water and carbon dioxide into this all important sugar. While the sun takes care of this for outdoor plants, most indoor gardeners will need to implement artificial lighting to achieve the ideal light intensity. Artificial lights come in many shapes sizes and colors, but are all measured in wattage. The wattage is an indicator of how much electricity a particular fixture is drawing from the source. Not all types of artificial lighting are equal in their efficiency in converting electricity into light. For example, a 1000 watt HID (High-Intensity Discharge) fixture will produce enough light to sufficiently cover about 20-25 sq. ft. (4.5’x 4.5’), while a modern LED (Light Emitting Diode) fixture will cover more space (5’x 5’) while consuming only 650-700 watts, like the 650 watt ▫️NextLight Mega▫️. The difference is in energy wasted through heat generation. LED lights run much cooler than HID lights but will cost more in initial investment. Additionally the color temperature of a light is something to consider as plants respond differently to different spectrums and combinations of light. The previously held belief that blue light is only for vegetative growth and red light for flowering growth is being increasingly questioned. Many new light manufacturers are opting for full spectrum lights to give plants a wide range of wavelengths to work with. We have many options for lighting available to suit your space, find the right one that works for you!
Ventilation is a commonly overlooked aspect of indoor gardening but it is extremely important. Properly venting the grow space rids the air of excess heat and humidity while introducing fresh air and CO2. Grow room ventilation can take all sorts of forms from a simple open window to high powered exhaust fans and filters. The size of the grow space and the presence of heat or other air flow reducing factors will determine the ventilation requirements for any particular growing operation. A greenhouse running efficient LED fixtures may be able to get by with open windows and oscillating fans while a sealed room with HID fixtures will likely require air conditioning, exhaust fans, wall fans and inline fans to cool the fixtures themselves. As a general rule, you should calculate the cubic feet of your grow space and add 25% if using a carbon filter. This metric is measured in CFM (cubic feet per minute). For example a 2’x 4’ x 8’ grow tent requires a fan that can generate about 96 CFM. Some consequences of a lack of ventilation include an increased risk of pests, mold problems, heat stress, or the plants may fail to properly transpire and uptake nutrients. For more info, check out ▫️this video▫️, part 5 in a series on building a grow room.
Temperature - Plant growth is maximized in the range of 77 - 86 degrees Fahrenheit. Too low of a temperature and the plants growth can be stunted. Too high of a temperature and the plants will transpire too much and as a result uptake nutrients at an increased rate which may cause the plant stress.
Humidity - Maintaining and ideal humidity level throughout the grow cycle is important for achieving a stable rate of evapotranspiration. ▫️VPD (vapor pressure deficit)▫️ is a measure of room temperature, plant temperature and humidity. Hot and dry grow spaces will cause plants to transpire too much and as a result uptake nutrients at an increased rate which may cause the plant stress.
Light - A PPFD (Photosynthetic Photon Flux Density) reading of 700- 800 is an ideal intensity for fruiting and flowering crops to reach their full potential. If you provide a plant with more than 1000 PPFD the plant should have access to an elevated source of CO2 in order to increase its metabolism and process all the extra light energy. The light requirement can be cut in half for the vegetative growth stage.
CO2 - The atmospheric level of CO2 is around 370 ppm (parts per million) and in an occupied building this number is doubled. It’s hard to use a CO2 supplement and maintain a consistent level in a vented grow room and this is one reason that sealed grow rooms are becoming more popular.
▫️Here are some options▫️ for climate control in a grow space to really dial in your environment.
When it comes to what your plants eat the main decision you will have to make is between feeding them mineral based nutrients (often called synthetics or salt based), organic based nutrients or a blend combining the two. Most nutrient lines have a simple set of base nutrients in a 2, 3 or 4 part mix and additionally a number of supplemental products which have a wide variety of benefits/ applications. While organic and synthetic lines can be successful in hydroponic or soil based operations alike they do have some key differences. Hydroponic operations where the plants are fed from a mixed solution of nutrients expose roots to an array of elements that are immediately available for the plant to uptake and use. Although many soil growers use synthetic nutrients, this type up cultivation tends to be focused on building a strong, healthy and diverse rhizosphere, or root zone. This is done by starting with a good soil or using soil amendments to rejuvenate a used soil and often adding bio stimulants to encourage nutrient chelation to increase their availability and form symbiotic relationships below the soil level. Some commonly used organic bio stimulants include mycorrhizal fungi, microbes, humic acids, amino acids, B-vitamins and carbohydrates. Check out our ▫️workshop slides▫️ for more detailed information on organic bio-stimulants and nutrient management. If you are into hydroponics, check out our ▫️101▫️ or ▫️102▫️ workshop slides for some advanced techniques.
Pest & Disease Control IPM (Integrated Pest Management) is the practice of taking efforts to stop pest problems before they happen and only using pesticides as a last resort. Ensuring all your indoor gardening equipment is clean prior to working is essential for pest prevention. Additionally, you should avoid bringing outdoor plants indoors. Adding sticky traps and/ or beneficial insects to your grow space are other ways to control a pest situation without doing any harm to the plant. While it’s not always possible the best solution for pest management is cultivating a strong and healthy plant. Pests are not attracted to a thriving crop. Much like in the animal kingdom predators seek out the slower and weaker prey. When an infestation occurs, check out some of the organic and naturally derived ▫️products▫️ we have available
While easy to grow plants like microgreens and many leafy greens have a fairly simple life cycle, other blooming varieties have a more complex system and require additional inputs. All plants whether coming from seed or clone will all need to go through a propagation stage when they develop their initial roots. During this stage the plant is just a seedling and will require a high humidity level. A gardener should be focused on developing strong roots and can use a product like ▫️Recharge▫️ or ▫️Voodoo Juice▫️ which contain mychorrizal fungi and beneficial microbes to assist in root development. Kelp extracts like ▫️Bio Weed▫️ contain natural hormones and help with lateral root development. Throughout propagation a plant benefits from the right amount of light that won’t burn them, a high level of humidity and a gradual increase in feeding concentration. As a plant enters and progresses through the growth stage you will want to provide them with a steady stream of light and plenty of available nutrients, especially nitrogen. As a plant begins its budding phase they will consume more phosphorus and potassium, so a ▫️blooming formula▫️ supplies the correct NPK ratios to energize blooms and maintain overall health of the plant. As fruits mature and ripen, the plant consumes less nutrients and slows production before harvest. All of the leading nutrient companies have developed specific feeding schedules optimized for high performance indoor gardens. Browse our in store inventory ▫️here▫️ to decide which one is right for you!
Before designing an indoor space to grow there are a few things to determine. What type of plant am I growing and what kind of system do I desire? If you plan to grow something like microgreens, lettuce, basil or kale you can most likely do this in a single space. Perhaps a small vertical farming design with a stacked shelving model would be best, as these plants do not get very tall before they are ready to enjoy. On the other hand, if you plan to grow something that has growth and blooming cycles like tomatos, or you want to enjoy a perpetual harvest, it helps to have separate spaces for different life stages. A start to finish grow room can be thought of like an assembly line. There is a place for a set of mother plants which are kept in a continuous vegetative state and fed a specific nutrient solution like Mother Plant A+B. Next, there is a work and propagation space where cuttings are taken from the mature mother plants and set into a root development system like a ▫️Turbo Klone aeroponic cloner▫️ or ▫️rockwool cubes▫️. After propagation the plants will be transplanted into pots or other ▫️hydroponic system▫️ to undergo their growth stage. Finally, established plants will enter a separate space with a different set of environmental conditions to begin blooming where they will remain until harvest. An indoor garden can be as simple or productive as you want. It can be a standalone kitchen rack against a sunny window producing microgreens for the home, or a large artificially lit, air conditioned, space with multiple rooms that can feed a city.
Be sure to check out ▫️our video series▫️ on designing an indoor grow space from start to finish, or read more about our design and consultation services ▫️here▫️.
What to grow and how to grow are often questions that come in a pair; this is because, the answer to one can largely influenced by the other. While many plants can do well in both soil and hydroponics operations, indoors and outdoors, they do have a large number of differences. Some plants are easy to grow, like many microgreens and leafy greens, while plants like peppers or tomatoes will require more inputs and have longer life cycles which allows more time for things to go wrong, or right. What to grow can also be determined by your level of knowledge, ability to tend to the garden, your initial investment or your desired outcome. The same can be said for how you go about doing it. An indoor garden is more expensive than an outdoor garden especially when adding artificial lighting and air moving equipment. A tomato plant grown in soil can reach enormous sizes and produce strong healthy fruit with the right care and attendance. It may take some time but this method can be ideal for beginners as the soil acts as a buffer between your nutrient solution and the plant. The end result is that you have time more time to gauge your plants vital signs and react to any problems. The same tomato seed brought up in a hydroponic system is likely to grow at a faster rate and is known to produce greater yields. These consequences are the result of a hydroponic nutrient solution that plants are able to uptake much faster than plants grown in soil. While hydroponic grows can afford a more bountiful harvest it’s important not to disregard the special attention these systems often require. As far as growing indoors versus outdoors, your geography may be your first limiting factor. Many gardeners will start their crops indoors during the winter in order to get a jump on the season and transplant mature plants outdoors as soon as it is warm enough.
David Cutrona is a sales associate at Green Dragon Hydroponics with experience in hydroponics and soil cultivation and an architectural draftsman with experience in 3D grow room design and as-built building surveys.