Cloning is a great way to reproduce a tasty tomato or pepper plant. When you have a plant that is superior in taste and better-than-average-yield, most want to keep it forever. Cloning allows you to do this. So, what is cloning? It is when you cut a stem or branch off a ‘mother’ plant and grow it into a new plant. The new plant will be a genetically identical replica of the mother plant. In addition, when you clone you are getting a plant of the same age as the mother plant and therefore, will be more vigorous than a smaller seedling. Taking cuttings is fairly simple but it’s important to pay attention to some details.
Your Mother Plant
The health of your mother plant will determine your cloning success. Obviously if your mother plant is diseased or stressed you cuttings will be also. To grow healthy clones make sure mother isn’t sick.
Choosing Your Medium
There are a few different mediums to use for your cuttings. You can buy an aeroponic cloner but it’s not necessary if you just want a few good plants to grow hydroponically, like in the Lettuce Ladder hydroponic system. Root cubes made out of peat, stonewool, foam or coco are used in cloning. You can also make your own peat-based soil mix but this is not recommended for growing hydroponically because the peat mix is loose and can clogged plumbing tubing.
Making Your Cuts
Choose a warm location where you can put your cuttings. It is best to make a list of what you’ll need like rubbing alcohol to clean your very sharp scalpel or small pruning snips because you don’t want any debris to contaminate on your tools. You’ll need to pick your medium like root plugs for example. Then you should have some rooting gel or root powder (available at hydroponic stores), a shot glass and some water. It’s a good idea to soak your root plugs in water to get them saturated. Now you are ready for cuttings. Pick young, somewhat tender stems from the middle or bottom of the mother plant. Use your very sharp scalpel or snips and cut a 4 to 5 inch long stem right below the ‘nodes.’
Place your cuttings in a cup of water until your ready to use them. While in the water, trim the lowermost leaves on each cutting but leave enough leaves to feed the plant while it’s without roots. Now, when your ready to clone, take the cutting out of the water and make a fresh, 45 degree angled cut, dip it immediately into your shot glass filled with cloning gel and place it 1-inch deep into your root plug (lightly squeeze out excess water) or medium of choice. Never put the young cutting directly into your gel or powder as this may contaminate the product.
Now that you have your cuttings in your medium, having the proper environment is important for the next week or two. Consider light, temperature and humidity. Cuttings don’t need strong lights, a CFL bulb is fine. Keep the light on for 18 hours per day. The light should also give off a little heat but the environment should be around 70- 75 degrees, so having a sunny warm location is best for cuttings. Humidity is very important as well, so mist your plants at least twice per day. If you can find a clear plastic dome to cover them, this will keep the humidity levels up. Just make sure the cuttings aren’t consistently wet as this may create fungal development on the leaves. Here is a picture of a cloned tomato plant prior to putting it into a hydroponic system like the Lettuce Ladder.
Feeding The Roots
You should see roots within 10 days and you may see the leaves turning yellow. Since the plant is trying to produce roots to grow, it will use the reserves in the leaves to do so and this may cause a yellowing of the leaves. Not to worry. When the roots are visible, treat them to a very, very light feeding of a rooting product or compost tea blend.
Cloning allows you to grow your favorite strains of vegetables or plants, and with growing hydroponically, this can be accomplished year round.
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