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How to Avoid Transplant Shock + Tips

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Plant transplant shock is not too familiar with new gardeners and most gardeners do not understand the intensity endured by your plants during transplant. But if you can relate and remember how stressful it is for us as human’s just ‘moving’ house and all headaches associated then you’ll start to understand how important your transplant process is for you and your plants.
You may probably think you know what constitutes to transplant shock, as most newbie gardeners could be led to believe that you will need to be a feather fingered ninja with precision timing and exceptional accuracy, actually NO! Being a heavy handed person in the garden, is NOT the reason that plant transplant shock occurs. Although the more care you do take during transplant will definitely be appreciated by your plants.
Gardeners tend to think that transplant shock is related to the damage of your plants delicate roots during transplant, pot up, relocation etc. But in actual fact the main reason is more to do with the sudden change in environmental conditions (warmth, light, and dwelling). The most affected by transplant shock are young plants, seedlings and cuttings. They suffer the most let’s say when you move plants from outdoors to indoors and vice versa or when you move them from a propagation T5 fluorescent light to a 600W MH. So remember that a sudden change for example leaving one environment for a high relative humidity and lower intensity lighting-to a more intense situation will undoubtedly bring about plant stress.
Now don’t worry too much as plants are more than capable of coping and adapting but the slower and more gradual you implement the environment change, the less stress will they will injure.
Here are some simple but important things to consider prior to transplant:

a. Select the healthiest looking plants to work with.
b. Check your pot container plants for root ball expansion. Roots should be sturdy, a healthy white colour and literally supporting the pot soil.
c. Be prepared. Have all your tools and equipment laid out ready to use.
d. As always Do Not over water, and keep a close eye on newly transplanted plants.
e. Ensure all pots, utensils are clean and free from contamination.

Before you even think about moving a plant from its pot, make sure you have the new pot prepared with fresh media, per-moistened and make a hole large enough for the new root ball to fit into easily. You have to take care when removing young plants from pots or seedling trays, so take your time. Softly squeeze around the root zone to loosen the plant from the pot. If transplanting from a seedling tray, a gentle pinch at the bottom of the root zone will help push the seedling out of the tray more easily.
If using loose growth media place it lovingly into a pre-dug hole and gently back fill the hole and consolidate the media around the plant. At this stage many gardeners would pop their transplant directly into your freshly made hole. Nothing wrong with this at all, but my method at this point is to inoculate my roots, my plants root zone with mycorrhizae.
Mycorrhizae help root development in such a positive manner. Please read a previous article on mycorrhizae for more information. Great White Mycorrhizae by Plant Success is a superb addition as it is 100% water soluble, and if you add a little to a litre spray of water, shake well and use this solution to moisten your root ball of your transplant. Once moistened hold the root ball over the hole you made earlier and add some more Mycorrhizae via a pepper shaker and sprinkle directly onto your transplants roots. This way any excess Great White used will not be wasted and will simply fall into your potting hole, to be reunited with the transplants roots when potted.
In fact nowadays there are other mycorrhizal products on the market to aid and help your roots to settle quickly and thus alleviate the potential stress caused to plants during transplant. Mykos by Extreme Gardening is another mycorrhizae product, but this one is designed to be added to your soil mix. Worth giving both these techniques a go as the results are truly amazing. For optimal results it's important to transplant at just the right time. For clones this is when they have been fully hardened off and preferably have plenty of air-pruned roots showing from the cube or plug. For more mature plants this is when the roots have fully filled the pot or cube but haven't become root bound. To check if a plant is ready, gently squeeze the edges of the pot so the plant will come out with little effort. If you can see an abundance of roots just starting to creep along the edge of the pot, but they haven't yet begun to fully circle, you are ready to transplant. If the soil or loose growing media starts to fall away and there aren't many visible roots, the plant is telling you that it needs a little longer in its current home before being transplanted. Be careful not to compact the media when you back-fill the pre dug hole, but make sure you haven't left any large air pockets. Then lightly water again to really settle the media around the newly-transplanted plant.

Newly transplanted plants will tend to droop.

Take one step at a time and make sure not to transplant from a small pot to a very large pot as the medium will stay wet for too long, off-putting the roots from searching for water, this can lead to drowning. Potting up in stages also helps to produce a denser root zone. The favoured pot change is usually three transplants to reach your final pot. Seedlings and cutting primarily go into plugs or rockwool cubes etc, these should be transplanted into a 2 litre pot and from the 2 litre into a 4 or 5 litre pot and then transplant into your final pot which could be as large as a 15 litre, anything larger and you may have to transplant once more. Be careful not to over water new transplants as this will retard root development. Bear in mind B vitamins whilst watering/feeding as B vitamins also act as an anti stress agent, products such as Superthrive or Aussie Tonic help to reduce the effect of the stress and are readily available, these are great additions to your feed.

Pot sizes – centimetres to inches to gallons conversion to litres

10cm pot = 4 inch pot= pint (0.5 quart) = 0.5L
13-15cm pot = 5-6 inch pot = quart (0.25 gal) = 1L
18-20cm pot = 7-8 inch pot= 1 gal = 4L
22cm pot = 8.5 inch pot = 2 gal = 7.5L
25cm pot = 10 inch pot = 3 gal = 11L
30cm pot = 12 inch pot = 5 gal = 19L
36cm pot = 14 inch pot= 7 gal = 26L
41cm pot = 16 inch pot= 10 gal = 38L
46cm pot = 18 inch pot = 15 gal = 57L
61cm pot = 24 inch pot = 25 gal = 95L
76cm pot = 30 inch pot= 30 gal = 114L

Newly transplanted cuttings or seedlings dislike hot and dry conditions. Too much air movement will increase stress too, forcing the plant to transpire more than is necessary. An unkind environment will force the young root system to work hard, just to keep up with the transpiration through the leaves. The trick here is to keep your cuttings/seedlings/transplants humidity levels high (70-80%) and gradually reduce them to levels of around 60%. Humidity really does plays a enormous part in determining how hard the roots have to work, and will also determine your success rate, so keeping the humidity at around 70-80% for the first few days is essential. You can achieve the better humidity conditions with temperature, this should be kept at no more than 75°F (24°C) and no cooler than 70°F (21°C): the warm temperature will help ease the plant through the whole transition.
Lastly too much lighting can be quite unnerving when you find your entire transplanted crops leaves all drooping, knowing full well you have recently watered them. You see after transplant your plants and their root zone have now more than enough space and if you’ve moved your transplants from a fluorescent T5 light fitting and then placed them directly under a metal halide. The droop you will unavoidably see is simply the roots being unable to supply the plant with enough water in order to keep up with its demands. As with everything you do in the indoor garden, it is important to make changes slowly and gently, easing plants into more demanding environments as softly/gently as possible. So simply raise your growing lights a little higher than usual let’s say 3-4 feet for 600 watt bulbs. This may seem too far away but rest assure this is enough light for the young transplants to photosynthesise, so just by lifting your lights a little higher it won’t put too much strain on the root system.
Think you get the picture that transplanting is quite tough on a plant, no matter how big or small it is really. As a result of most transplants, almost all plants will go into some degree of "transplant shock", a circumstance whereby their normal growth patterns and biological processes are upset, with varying degrees of consequential symptoms. In minor cases, this might just be a slight disturbance of its growth processes, which will return to normal shortly after the plant has settled in to its new home. In more severe cases, the plant's entire biological mechanisms can go awry for a period of time, resulting in stunted growth, and damage or even complete kill when it is too cold, the plant's hardening mechanisms are also thrown off.
Transplant shock is not something that can be completely prevented, even in the best of situations and with years of experience it still can only be managed to reduce the negative impacts. The best way to manage it is to pamper your plant through its readjustment period. Think of your new planting location as the new home for your plant. Make it as comfortable as you can, as close to its ideal growing conditions as you can recreate, so that the plant feels a minimum of disturbance and takes to its new conditions with relative ease. Make its new home a place it wants to live and thrive.

If you would like further advice, either call us on 0203 609 4067 or just drop in and have a chat.
Alternatively go to Go Grow Hydroponics.