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Right after I came up with the Seed Starter, I realized I needed a way to keep the roots safe for the rest of the plants expected life, through at least one more transplant, again preserving the original medium and nutrients, reducing the chance of damage or shock to the root system.
The funny thing is, what I came up with (which did work BTW) actually wound up being amazingly useful in a variety of situations. I will tack some of those extra use-cases onto the end but I think once you kind of get the "tao" of how and why this works, these other uses will seem obvious which is great because you don't need me to tell you.
I figured that I needed some way of making the plant and root system "component based" or plug and play to use another vernacular. In other words, what I say in my head was a sort of self-contained mini-environment that traveled with the plant through much of its life, moving from veg to bloom to whatever I could think of and it would just "plug into" the new system or grow setup. Finally, a key thing with the self-contained environment was that it would allow for easy and safe plant relocation. Thats one thing you will learn, exact light and plant placement (in relation to the light) can make all the difference and I found that if your plants are too anchored to one spot due to being part of a grow system or whatever, you will have problems rearranging your crop to get the most out of your light.
Enter: the 32 Ounce food-safe plastic soup to-go cup with lid, sold in 50-packs to restaurants:
These were pretty cheap and one pack lasts a long time as in most instances, a simple wipe-down after harvest and they are ready to go again. To make this you will need the following tools:
3/8th inch drill bit
2-inch hole bit
Turn the cup over, attach the hole saw and drill out the bottom of the cup:
Next, attach the 3/8th inch bit and drill 3-6 feed holes around the lip of the cup:
Attach the lid and presto! You are done! and the crowd goes wild...
Slight digression: This is what can complete the whole "never touch the roots" method. Once the seed has germinated in the seed starter and has a nice little root tail, you transplant it to one of these, but upside down and shown above. You can use the medium of choice, from soil to hydroton (clay balls), fill the cup almost to the top and then simply pick up the rooter plug with the germinated seed in it and place it in the top of the to-go cup, then fill in with hydroton around the plug. The goal is the plug should be about one pellets-worth beneath the surface. Finally you an just set this in a tub with 3-5 inches of nutrients, which I make sure is aerated. The nutrients enter thru the flow holes you drilled and the hydroton wicks just enough up to the rooter plug, which keeps your tender germinated seed safe.
I don't want to get off-track but the tub described above is another creation of sorts which will be explained later. Suffice it to say these tubs keep whatever is placed in them autofed and the nutrients are aerated. These can be configured to be anything from full-on hydro with deep water culture or soil or soil-ponics. It comes down to which lid and a few other parts that you use. I have grow soil and hydro from the same unit before, no problems.
The Home Stretch...
To bring this home, the final magic trick this thing does is makes transplants amazingly fast, simple and safe. Once in the ground or in its final grow-spot, the plant is past many of the pitfalls that can kill it. I am not tooting my own horn...well maybe I am but this is cool. To transplant this into any medium, do this:
1. Dig up enough of the medium so the hole is shaped about like the to go cup.
2. Holding the cup on its side, carefully remove the "lid" which has in fact been the bottom of the pot.
3. Set the whole thing into the hold you dug in step 1.
4. Lightly fill in the soil around the cup.
5. Carefully twisting the to go up a little, the whole cup slides right up and around the plant. The original roots and medium are still nicely wrapped around your roots. Moisture and time will allow it to acclimate to its new home.
6. Lastly, add any more soil mix as-needed and tamp it all down firmly.
You are done. Here is a dodgy video I made to demonstrate the process a few seasons ago. I was transplanting some things that were started indoors to an early spring outdoor crop and asked the missus to film it Here we go:
I have been using this basic technique for some time now and it works great. Other uses of the humble to go cup as described above include:
Instant DWC: By turning the to-go up right-side up again (the bottom is the bottom once again, you can set a 2 inch netpot into it with a plant and then set that into one of my tubs and it will be managed beautifully.
Self-contained DWC: When you really want to blast the roots with a special nutrient mix and/or intense aeration (but maybe have no overflow tub available), you can take a whole, unmodified cup , fill it about 2/3 the way full with your special nutrient mix, then insert a 1/4 inch airhose with airstone down to the bottom of the cup, then set a 2 inch netcup into the top which holds the air-hose in place and the air is blasted with your nutrients in a really small area, really over-diving the formation of nice healthy roots in record time. After that I transplant them to either soil or DWC, whatever captures my fancy. Since I know the roots are solid and healthy, anything I do with that plant has just a little more of an edge up on things.
There are more uses but to get the most out of them, I need to explain the last of the custom things I built to help with the growing process so...on to JeffsPot: Duo!
Yes, another crappy name from something I can't think of a good name for.