Cuttings from mother plants guarantee identical female replicas ready to grow out into tasty trees. This easy guide will let you avoid the typical mistakes and pitfalls and help you succeed at the art of cloning. Story S photos by Jef Tek
You've germinated seeds. You've budded huge monsters outdoors as well as in. You can tell the sex of a cannabis plant from across a crowded growroom, as well as whether it's sativa or indica. But the mere thought of cloning causes brain strain, giving you a tightness in your chest or that familiar sleepy feeling. Wake up! This is my own tried-and-true, personal-best method for taking clones from my favorite mother plants. Best of all, it's cheap and super-simple: Anyone with a healthy plant and a little desire can turn that one mother into literally thousands of duplicate cuttings that will have the exact same genetics and behavior as the original mom.
Cloning is the current word for what your grandmother used to call "taking cuttings"—and just like her, the process hasn't changed much over the years. Some wild plants can be rooted by sticking them into a glass of water or directly into moist soil; cannabis won't root using this method, but the cuttings will survive for weeks in a glass of water until you're ready to use them [just be sure to change the water from time to time].
From constant trial and error, I have found that pure water or even a mild hydroponic spray will keep the cutting so moist that rooting is actually delayed—i.e., too much of a good thing. Rockwool is designed to provide a roughly 50/50 water-to-air ratio if it's not overwatered, and experience has shown me that keeping rockwool on the dry side is advantageous to explosive rooting. The only problem here is that you're living on a razor's edge: Hydroponic plants will immediately wilt and sometimes die if the rockwool is allowed to dry out (or even get a touch too dry), but if you overwater it, fungus gnats, mold and green algae will have a field day devouring the nutrients in competition with your new clones—to say nothing of their tender new roots.
WHAT TO DO?
First, forget about expensive, finicky and non-recyclable rockwool altogether: Ws itchy and bitchy when it comes to over- or underwatering. And forget those jiffy-style peat
pucks as well, the ones that come compressed and swell up in water—they work fine as far as it goes, but only offer 1.5 to 2 inches of contact area for roots to form from the newly cut stem. Also, both rockwool and peat pucks need a tray-and-dome setup, and those 10-by-20-inch plastic trays aren't very durable. Sure, if you're planning to grow for a little while and then quit, these minor expenses won't be enough to make or break you (and no, I didn't say "wake and bake"). But when you've been growing for a decade or more, you start to see areas where you can cut costs without cutting quality. And sometimes these cost-cutting and time-saving ideas will make for healthier, happier plants—more so, even, than the expensive ways.
Here's one of them. Get yourself some 20-ounce plastic beer cups. They're usually red, sometimes blue, and the staple ingredient of any successful keg party—plus they cost about five bucks for a few hundred, and they're the key ingredient in this super-simple cloning method. Next, get yourself a bag or bale of Pro-Mix HP or any other peat-based soilless mix (like Sam's Club potting soil). This is afl you'll need—except for a razor blade or sharp scissors to make the final cut, and your favorite liquid nutrients.
Most rooting hormones, from Superthrive to willow bark, contain NAA (naphthylacetic acid), a hormone that regulates plant growth, while indole butyric acid (IBA) is the leading hormone used to promote the formation of roots in plants. Dip'N Grow utilizes both, and I've been using it exclusively for years. But it's up to you to decide your needs and budget; this extra stuff is optional and not imperative at all.
The final choice you have to make is whether or not to poke holes in the bottom of your cups. If you don't have a drill—or you just don't feel like it—then don't. Fuck it! ) said this method was super-simple, didn't I?
First, fill your cups to the top with soilless mix. Then cut a long-stemmed clone from your mother plant, Take a whole lower branch—these are chronologically the oldest and will root the fastest. Trim off all the lower branches on a stem at least 6 inches long, but preferably 9 or more inches long. You can even use a 12-inch-long
clone by simply bending the stem without breaking it, putting the loop into a cup and then filling the cup with soil. As long as you have a growing top and at least two fan leaves, the clone will prosper.
Once each cup is filled with soil and you've inserted your cutting, simply water it with 4 ounces of half-strength vegetative-growth food/water solution. Water each cup evenly and then place it a few inches beneath a fluorescent light.
In a week or two, the cuttings wit'. have started to root. Fertilize the plants lightly; when they start to grow bigger, you can give them a full-strength fertilization before transplanting them into the next-size container. This method is great whether you have only one or two clones to maintain or want to do hundreds at a time. If you dritt holes in your cups and put trays under them, you can also water from the bottom for even better root growth. With a minimum of 5 inches of stem touching moist soil, the little plant will just about continue growing while busting roots. Humidity domes aren't necessary here, either: The plant is still pulling moisture from the stem, so the leaves aren't trying to suck water from the air (thereby delaying proper root formation).
WHY IS THIS METHOD SO VERSATILE?
A rockwool tray has to be filled all at once, whereas my method will accommodate any number of plants. If you're cloning several varieties and growing them out in a kind of communal area, you'll find that different strains use nutrients and water at different rates, which means that some will spread their roots into the slower-growing strains' area—and by labeling the individual cuttings, you run the risk of damaging them. But with my method, the cups can be easily labeled, and as soon as the new clone outgrows its cup, you can transplant it readily into any desired substrate. You can even rinse the roots vigorously under water if you want to transplant it into a totally hydroponic system.
Look, I've tried every method out there, and even though one man's garbage is another man's gold, there's just nothing to be gained by constantly reinventing the wheel. From the start, I've tried to rely on only the easiest methods and most readily available supplies—exotic soils, nutrients and equipment only spell trouble in my Line of work. You have to be flexible when you run out of rockwool on a Sunday night with a handful of healthy cuttings going to waste. There's no room for such mistakes, especially when each cutting provides the medicine to keep you healthy, happy, and able to share the fruits of your labors with others.
I like sharing, and I really like healthy clones. When they get over- or underwatered or there's a nutrient imbalance, I feel sick for my plants. By carefully watching and monitoring many different growing methods, I've evolved away from using harmful rockwool to peat pucks and back again, constantly searching fora primo cloning method that involves minimal stress on my plants. Try this one out for yourself and you'll see how easy it is. I guarantee it: if you do this once, you'll be hooked, and you will never fear the word "clone" again.
Peace and Buds, Jef Tek.