DIY Hydroponics

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DIY Hydroponics - Taking Cuttings or Cloning

Cloning GelThe word cloning immediately inspires thoughts of laboratories, men in white coats and possibly even experiments of doubtful moral virtue. Cloning when it applies to plants is not a daunting or complicated procedure and it can be beneficial the home gardener to reproduce his plants by cloning rather than from germinating them from seed.

Im going to be blunt and state that the group of hydroponic gardeners most likely to use cloning to any high degree are those who elect to grow crops such as cannabis. Good luck fellas, dont get caught. Why crops such as cannabis is easy to explain. A lot of plants are hermaphrodites, they produce male and female flowers on the same plant. Other plants have distinct genders, male flowers on male plants and female flowers on female plants. Cannabis afficiandos only like the flowers of the female plant, the male flowers are apparently not very highly regarded at all. Cloning allows the gardener to select a plant of the correct gender and one that has a record of acceptable or higher than average yield and reproduce an exact genetic replica of it, or lots of genetic replicas if required. So we can see the advantage of takings cuttings is a clear one for this particular group of gardeners, they get exactly what they want each time every time.

Most of my experience with cuttings comes from a hedge that a friend wanted for her backyard to stop the neighbours ogling her while she lounged around her pool. We went to the local nursery, purchased a fast growing bush whose name has long escaped me and took twelve cuttings off it as ten plants were required to complete her privacy. She did end up with thirteen bushes for her hedge but only had to pay for one. I would consider this to be the chief advantage of taking cuttings for the home gardener, why buy ten when you can buy one and end up with spares with just a little patience. Or seeing a plant you like and being able to have one yourself simply by breaking a piece off it. So cloning can be a usefull skill to acquire, though not necessarily one you would use a lot.

Most plants can be reproduced by cloning though results are variable with some species, notably grafted plants such as roses and fruit trees may not give your the results you expect because they are a genetically mixed bag, for want of a better description. For our example we are going to clone a tomato plant, not because we want another tomato plant but because I would consider this site incomplete without some detailed information on cloning. There are a few methods that you can use to take a cutting, some as simple as sitting the cutting in a cup of water until it grows roots. The method demonstrated here works extremely quickly and with a little practice you can have your cuttings rooted in less than a week.

Taking a Cutting (Cloning)

Taking a cutting or cloning as it is alternately called is really as easy as removing part of a branch of the plant you would like to clone and forcing that part to grow roots. Yes, it really works. You will need-
  • an icecream container filled with some tepid water
  • a sharp pair of scissors such as the ones you find in a first aid kit
  • a scalpel
  • cloning gel
  • rockwool cubes
  • cutting box or humidicrib as its often called
  • an indoor nursery like this one (optional)
Taking a cutting from a mother plant

The plant that you intend to reproduce is called a mother plant. The ideal plant to take a cutting from is one in its vegetative stage of growth as it will root more readily and then get directly into the business of growing. This does not mean that you can take a cutting from a plant in the flowering stage but be aware that cuttings from plants that are already flowering will take longer to root and grow. Take them from the vegetative stage wherever possible.

To take your cutting locate a suitable branch on the plant and aim to get the growing tip and at least three nodes as well. Leaf nodes are the joins on the branch that a leaf or another branch comes out. Have your ice cream container with the warm water ready, the objective is to take your cutting and immediately dunk it into the water, taking great care to make sure that the part you just cut is underwater. This will prevent the cutting getting an air bubble in its stem. Make the cut halfway between leaf nodes and put the cutting straight into the icecream container. The rest of this procedure should be performed while the cutting is immersed in the water in the icecream container, we have removed the cutting from the water so that you can clearly see what is required.

Cut the clone to be on the red marksAs previously mentioned this should all be done while the cutting is immersed in water, anywhere you cut must be underwater to avoid air bubbles in the plants stem. Using the scalpel because we want good clean cuts, the cut where we removed the cutting from the mother plant should be redone just below the node and at a 45 degree angle. The leaf attached to the node should also be removed and cut close to the node so that it is inline with the stem. This tomato was also flowering so we shall cut the flowers off as well as this seems to help the plant revert to vegetative growth. As a final step, lightly scrape the stem around the bottom node just slightly. This will allow the rooting gel to get a good hold and penetrate the plant where the new roots will grow.

Let the cutting stay in the water for a few seconds, it is quite capable of healing itself and plugging its holes to some degree and leaving it underwater will help it recover.

Dip the Cutting in Cloning Gel and Place it in the rockwool cube

Now at this point you should have your cloning gel open and ready for use and a rockwool cube standing by ready to receive the cutting. Make holes in the top of your rockwool cube that penetrate about 3/4 of the way down the cube and are a few millimetres bigger than the diameter of the stem of your cutting. We dont want to wipe the cloning gel off the cutting when we are sliding it into the cube. Take your cutting out of the water quickly and dunk it into the cloning gel, deeply enough to cover the cuts you have made around the node. Keep it there for about 30 seconds and then slide it into the rockwool cube. You have just taken your first cutting.

The cuttings have developed rootsThe cuttings should be placed in the humidicrib or at least in some sort of humid environment. You can cover the top of your ice cream container with a layer of glad wrap as an alternative that really works. Cuttings do root better under flourescent lighting I must add but you can place them outside in the shade if you prefer. HID lights are too harsh for cuttings and your results will be variable if you attempt to use one to root your clone. For the first couple of days after taking your cuttings mist them with water gently but avoid washing them out. Water them with plain water or better still plain water with vitamin B or superthrive as this will help them start up. If your humidicrib has vents like our example one have the side vents closed and the top vent half open for the first two or three days, after that open the top vent fully and the side vents halfway. After a couple of days like that open the side vents fully. After a week or so the cuttings should start to develop roots and you can start watering them with half strength nutrient solution and take the dome off the humidicrib entirely. After the plants start growing new leaves etc full strength nutrient solution can be applied and your cuttings are now rightly to be considered plants.