Transplanting Starts from Dirt to Hydroponics

I started my plants in dirt for one and a half weeks, then transplanted to a multi-flo system. They're not looking to good. Should I start my plants in the hydro system? I'm using clay pellets. Whats the best way to start plants?

Answer: Transplanting from dirt into a hydroponic system is usually a bad idea. While it is quite possible to make such a transplant successfully, the dirt itself causes all kinds of problems. Dirt will clog drip emitters and spray heads. For systems that are less picky, the dirt can still clog the filter to your pump and possibly burn your pump out. For the type of system you are using, I don't think enough of the dirt will make it to the pump to cause a problem. However, the dirt will make it a little more messy to clean and re-use your clay pellets.

There are several things that could be causing your young plants to not look so well. The number one problem in gardens in general is over watering. If your plants were kept too wet (soggy) while in soil, they might have been right on the verge of looking sick when you made the transplant. Also, soil tends to hold more than enough water, while clay pellets drain very quickly and can be difficult to keep at the proper moisture level sometimes. If you are irrigating your clay pellets properly, it is probably over watering the soil ball also. If the ball of dirt were only very small, than this becomes a non-issue.

Over watering often looks similar to under feeding. Fast growing plants need a shot of starter fertilizer in week one....not too strong, 500 ppm should be good for this first feeding. If using an actual starter fertilizer, simply follow the directions on the package. If you did not give your starts any fertilizer, and if there were no nutrients to speak of in the soil mix, than it is possible the starts just needed a little Nitrogen. Again, they would have been on the verge of looking sickly at the time of the transplant.

If you very carefully rinsed away the dirt from the roots in room temperature water, than transplanted the plants into the clay pellets, carefully placing pre-soaked clay pellets around the roots until the plant was properly supported, than that would be a different story. In that case, it could be normal transplant shock....especially after the extra handling of the roots! If that is the case, your plants should perk back up in about a week (assuming the nutrient strength and pH are correct in the new environment).

If your plants are only 1 1/2 weeks old, they should not be fed more than 700 ppm. Some plants prefer even a little bit less. As long as they are getting some nutrients, than it is better to err on the side of too little than too much. Just remember, the plants ARE getting a steady stream of fresh nutrients, available for the taking....and it will take them some time to strip all of the nutrients from the reservoir. Most plants prefer a pH of 6.0 or 6.2.

Finally, if you DID wash all the soil away before transplanting, than it becomes very important that you used pre-soaked clay pellets. It takes a minimum of 20 minutes of soaking for clay pellets to absorb an appropriate amount of water. Exposing delicate, bare roots to clay pellets that are a little on the dry side would only add to the stress of their transplant.

When it comes to starting plants, there really is no "best" way. If done properly, each way is capable of producing great results. The real question is (given the method you have chosen to use), "what plant growth conditions have not been kept ideal?". With so many things that could be causing a problem, it becomes more important to know your plants well and to know what conditions they need in order to thrive.

If you are starting with clones, than I recommend checking out my cloning success page. Over the years, I have stopped using rockwool plugs for this technique, and now prefer Rapid Rooter plugs. If you are starting seeds, than check out my seed starting page. On this page I recommend using a soilless mix, which is a little different than starting seeds in soil and which should work just fine for transplanting into your system. Otherwise, use the Rapid Rooter plugs again (and follow all of the other recommendations on the page). Also, check out my seedling stage page, which has the best information on how to feed and treat your young seedlings just after they sprout.

I hope this helps you out, and Happy Growing!

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(10 week update below)

Find out the cheapest and easiest ways to garden productively in this article.

Hi everyone, Jason from Jason's Indoor Guide here. When I got started with hydroponic gardening more than 24 years ago, my first garden used rockwool cubes and B.C. Nutrients....and I remember thinking to myself yeah, sure, there may be a lot of advantages to gardening with hydroponics, for example there are very few pest problems, therefore very little pest control, no weeding, no plowing or tilling the soil, no soil testing or having to add things into the garden soil, no watering the garden....but for someone who just wants to grow their own vegetables and have more control over their food supply and the quality of the food that they eat, the cost of constantly having to buy grow media and hydroponic nutrients makes this an expensive hobby for most people...

Epic Nutrient Change

I suppose when you take into consideration how much money you save NOT having to buy food at the grocery store, it is surely cheaper to grow your own food hydroponically even with the cost of high quality nutrients. Nevertheless, I didn't have a whole lot of money to work with and I needed to make my efforts as affordable and effective as possible....and in the last 24 years I HAVE learned a thing or two!

As you browse through Jason's Indoor Guide, you will notice all of the systems that I use personally are homemade systems. As I got 3 or 4 years of experience under my belt, I quickly adopted a preference to standing water systems and systems that use expanded clay pellets or lava rock, because the media is re-usable and it eliminates a huge operating expense. So once a hydroponic system is built, garden maintenance is minimal- check and adjust the nutrient solution daily, and to change it completely every 2 weeks....and the biggest operating cost is the hydroponic nutrients. (and the electric bill, lol)...

Homemade Cloner

And, regarding the cost of the nutrients....I experimented for about 3 years with making different compost teas and nutrient teas, but there is still a lot of expense $$$ associated with making high quality nutrient kelp meal, liquid seaweed, rock dust, bat guano, un-Sulfured molasses, worm castings. You can eliminate a lot of this expense by becoming an expert at making high-quality colloidal humus compost, and use your properly made compost as the basis of your hydroponic nutrient solution.

Unfortunately, I have been gardening for over 24 years and I have only just recently mastered this difficult skill....and even then, only because I happened to find a very easy to follow, high quality technique and decided to follow the instructions to the letter. I produced more high quality compost in just one week than I was able to use in a whole year! If you can master the technique, I highly recommend it. It is one of the top 3 things you can do to increase the productivity of your food production efforts, while at the same time decreasing the amount of effort required to grow all of your own food, and decreasing the total cost of operating your food production system.

And when I say decrease operating costs, I mean decrease them to almost ZERO, especially if you are producing your own nutrients...

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The ultimate solution to eliminate the cost of your hydroponic nutrients: Imagine a hydroponic system that does not require you to buy any nutrients, does not require you to make your own compost, and does not require you to brew your own nutrient tea. Seriously! No cost and no effort as far as providing nutrients to your plants! Plus, at the end of the gardening cycle you harvest all of your garden vegetables, PLUS YOU HARVEST FISH from the system--->


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This solution is aquaponics. If you are serious about producing all of your own food and being self-sufficient, this is the ultimate solution for reducing expenses (as much as possible), reducing the total amount of work required, and maximizing the productivity of your gardening efforts. I have been gardening for over 24 years, and it is the perfect food production solution in my opinion.

Produce garnden vegetables AND fish together. Eliminate fertilizer costs!

Besides mastering how to make high quality compost, learning aquaponics is one of the top 3 things you can do to increase your garden productivity, reduce your total costs, and reduce your total work. The product that I learned from is called Aquaponics4you. With all of my hydroponic gardening experience, the first time I came across the Aquaponics4you product I knew immediately that it was something very special! Place an aquaponics system outdoors and use the sun instead of grow lights, and you have reduced every garden expense to nearly ZERO!

The Same System/ 10 Weeks Later!

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