Hey everyone. I've had this article archived
since the tragic demise of OverGrow. It was originally posted by OT1,
all credit goes to him.
Part 1 MAKING, MAINTAINING, AND RENOVATING BONSAI MOMS
This Article was originally published at overgrow.com 27/6/2000. Revised and archived 20/10/03 by Oldtimer1. Now
we will deal with every aspect of the care and maintenance of Mums
including root and branch pruning as well as the renovation on an old
mother well past her sell by date.
"Tired of huge unwieldy
mothers that take up too much space? As I've shown before, a fully
established bonsai mum only takes 8 inches x 8 inches."
bonsai mother, if well fed, produce 10 to 30 good cuttings every 14
days under an HID or every 20 days under fluorescent shop light. This
means a 4 ft x 2 ft shoplight with 18 Mums, could produce an output of
over 9500 cuttings a year.
Typical Bonsai Mum
are not talking about intensive production here but it shows just how
flexible and efficient the system can be. What it does for the
connoisseur is allow them to keep a good selection of varieties in a
relatively small space. If you don't fancy growing one for 6 months or
a year it doesn't matter. All she will need is regular maintenance.
start with Mumming up a plant from a rooted cutting, once again this is
simple. You will find that with every batch of cuttings a few will
stand out, being sturdier and generally looking better all round, pick
one or two of these to make your Mums, not some wimpy left over reject.
Remember this mum will provide you with cuttings 4 to 18 times a year
for the next 3 to 15 years, so only the best will do. Pick a fully
rooted through cutting from the plug tray and pot on into a 2.5 inch
square pot. I find square pots much easier to deal with when it comes
to root pruning, as you will see later.
Grow it on for a few days so it can start rooting through then trim its top back to leave 3 or 4 side shoots.
little branches to be will make the main framework of your Mum. Ideally
as they grow they should form an open cup shape. The top 2 will grow
the fastest and when they get to about 5 inches pinch or snip out their
growing tips to just above a leaf node. This will allow the second pair
to catch up in a day or so, then pinch them out as well. This will
encourage side shoots to form, any that grow into the central cup
shaped space pinch out.
You will now have 6 to 8 leading shoots
coming up. When they reach 4 to 6 inches they can be taken as your
first set of cuttings. You cut them back to just above the first leaf
node of the new growth. So after the cuttings have been taken the mum
is only a tiny bit larger than the last time she was cut back but the
main branches will be starting to get thicker.
Now is the time
to move up to the next pot size and a 3 inch sq is ideal. The next set
of leading shoots will tend to be 12 to 16, plus there will be others
coming up from lower nodes so in total there may be 30 or more. Any
really thin ones or any growing into the center either cut back to one
node or remove altogether.
the picture above from the left:- [one], is the trimmed cutting from
above. [two], Has had 2 sets of cuttings taken off and is more than
ready to move to a 3 inch pot. As you can see it is a little short of N
showing its better to move after only taking one set of cuttings.
[three] in a 3 inch pot 12 cuttings have been taken with 2 left on to
show where to cut back to. [four] is a five year old Mum that has just
had 32 cuttings taken off and could do with some more small twiggy bits
removed. She is in a 1 litre pot and has been since she was 3 months
Note how all have an open center, this allows light to
both the centre and the outside. It will fill in between taking
cuttings but if pruned back to this form, makes better and more even
growth giving more good cuttings each time. Water only is used while
forming the Mums and no fertiliser. It is not until they are in their
final 1 litre pots and a set or two of cuttings have been taken that
The general care and maintenance for fully formed mother plants.
Mums need just enough fertilizer to keep them healthy. Feed of half
strength fertilizer twice a month, using say a 6-2-4 fish mix as about
right [its not critical]! This keeps them in good general health but
doesn't over feed them. If you want faster production at any point
change to a full strength feed once or twice. Every 2 to 4 weeks a new
batch of cuttings are taken even if they are not needed and just put in
the worm bin. You can think of it as being like having to mow the lawn
and keeps the mum the same size and form for years. Because so much is
taken away they can get short of macro nutrients so every month or so
give them a foliar spray using maxicrop. Judge this by how the plants
are looking not by a time table.
One of the main things that all
growers need to learn is regular close observation. To know when they
are healthy and need nothing to the first signs of deficiencies
appearing. The one thing they may run short of is magnesium even if
dolomite lime is used in the compost, this is easily dealt with by one
watering plus a foliar spray, using 1 ounce of Epsom salts dissolved in
a gallon of water.
They will need root pruning once or twice a
year. This depends on how intensively they are fed and how good your
water quality is. Despite what is normally quoted it is virtually
impossible to flush out salt build up from a root ball. A temporary
over fertilization yes but the gradual crystallization of salts and
carbonate deposits no! If your water supply is heavily contaminated
with minerals I recommend a small Reverse-Osmosis filter to clean your
water for both your Mums and your production plants.
"Now root pruning and Mum renovation. "
The method of root pruning is the same for routine maintenance or renovation.
we are dealing with a 7 year-old mum that hasn't been root trimmed for
nearly a year. I have deliberately neglected her for the last 10 weeks
for purposes of showing you the recovery. She has been on a diet of R/O
water only, no other feed of any sort. This is to show you how tough
Cannabis is and how far you can let things slide and still get a mum
back into productivity. Its not a recommended practice and continual
abuse like this will eventually kill a mum.
you can see there is little residual fertilizer left in the compost. It
is what we call spent (worn out). The first thing we do is trim back
nearly all the top growth back to the main framework branches. Leaving
one or two tiny shoots at the tip of each branch to draw sap and keep
the branch alive. If all the shoots and buds are removed, 99 times out
of a 100 die back sets in-- and once that starts the whole plant
usually dies within a month or two. It doesn't matter if the small
shoots are yellow from lacking N, they will soon start to grow and
green up as the new roots start forming!
Next the rootball
should have 3/4 of an inch cut off each side and an inch off the
bottom. This reduces the 4.5 x 4.5 x 4.5 inch rootball to 3 x 3 x 3.5
inches high after the loose compost is scraped from the top. This means
that two-thirds of the soil is being replaced. A good full strength
organic compost is used when repotting and it only takes a day or two
for the roots to really start growing into the new compost.
the bottom of the rootball on about 3/4 of an inch of compost then pack
out the sides and finally cover the top with a 1/4 to 3/8 of an inch.
This means the mum is planted round a 1/4 inch deeper every time root
pruning is done about 1/2 an inch a year. In a couple of years from now
I will cut down vertically and split the plant in two as the side
branch will have a root system of its own. Using this method the roots
are constantly being replaced and as well the main trunk replaced
slowly. This seems to keep the Mums healthy for many years.
second mother of our selected "ES" line lasted for just over 15 years
using this method. Interestingly if you want to hold a plant long term
in a small pot say a 2.5 inch sq this can be root pruned the same as
the 1 litre plant but only taking off about 1/4 of an inch all round. I
keep Dads in this pot size and some are over 5 years old.
it is very important to make sure there are no voids or air gaps left
when packing the sides, use a pencil or small dibber, fill slowly and
The last picture is 12 days after the root and top
pruning- It tells it's own story! Already there are enough nice leaders
to make 10 good cuttings. I have to admit to putting her under an
sodium light to speed up her development and make this Issues deadline.
Even so, the recovery wouldn't have taken much longer in the mum box.
it you should have all the info you need to make and root cuttings in
compost the make and maintain bonsai mother plants, its easy, give it a
Part 2 TAKING CLONES FROM BONSAI MOMS
lot of interest has been shown in the methods we use to keep mother
plants, how we make them, manage them and how we do our cuttings
production." - Oldtimer1 1999. Article originally published at overgrow.com April 30 2000 this article is revised and archived 5/8/03
issue we will we will cover our soft tip cuttings system in detail and
a brief outline about our mother plants! Every grower can get the same
results by imitating our easy organic system.
an outline our mother plants are kept root restricted, i.e. using some
standard bonsai methodology and techniques. It is an excellent method
for keeping mother plants long term and has proved a very reliable
system since we developed this method some 24 years ago. The longest a
mother has lived like this without having to be replaced is just over
15 years. On average pure indicas need replacing every 3 years, hybrids
every 4 to 5 years and pure sativas every 6 to 7 years! Of course it
depends on the care they are given! Male plants can be kept in the same
way and in fact will stand more abuse than mother plants.
Clone, Mum and Dad box. Its a double deck with 2 times 4ft x 2 ft lights each with 4 x 40w coolwhite fl lights Close up of tray top left 270 rooted cuttings, in plugs ready to go into pots. Close up of top tray right 100 cuttings at the start of rooting.
of the big advantages using bonsai mother plants, is that each only
needs a maximum of 8 x 8 inches. So a 2 ft x 2 ft x 2 ft high box with
a 4 tube fluorescent shoplight can hold 9 mothers. We call the plants
we keep Mums and Dads! Not to be confused with chrysanthemums (that bit
is for you Cha Cal).
Some of the quotes I have read in High
Times saying that you get genetic degeneration by keeping mother plants
long term, this is total rubbish!
Degeneration can certainly
occur if a mother plant gets infected with a reversion virus. I will
cover this later! The grass produced today from our mother plants is
just as potent and smells just as good as when it was first grown out
from seed many years ago. In fact it is better now, we have better
lighting and superior growing techniques, allowing the clones to
express their potential more fully.
I am going to start by
showing you our largest mum, this time from above. She is in a 1-litre
pot (the largest size used). With all the top growth pictured she is
about 13 inches tall and ready to take cuttings. Inset is a cutting
being clipped out see below.
type we take are small soft tip cuttings, 2.5 to 3.5 inches long. It is
important that there is no lignification at all. When I first discussed
this with friends on the net some 3 years ago was with some disbelief,
and a lot of amusement at the idea of toothpick sized cuttings. How on
earth was I going to get a decent crop of buds? Well, soft tip cuttings
have an unrestricted growth potential and grow much faster than semi
hard or fully lignified hard wood cuttings. At the end of the day we
get a much higher crop weight using the soft tip cuttings.
fine point scissors for trimming the plants, they are fast and easy to
use. Quick enough to do 2 to 3 cuttings a minute. Forget the stories
that they bruise the stem and cause rot, it's rubbish! They do need to
be sharp, so buy a new pair and keep them just for this task. As far as
hygiene is concerned, providing all you Mums are free of virus, simply
put them through the dishwasher after every session to get rid of the
sap build up. This keeps them free and easy to use.
How to prepare the cuttings
Inserting cuttings and covering with bag
Preparing the cutting:-
[one] - typical tip cutting ready to prepare.
[two] - snip off the side shoot and leaf the node you want to root.
[three] - cut just below the node you want to root.
[four] - dip the trimmed node in rooting hormone.
Inserting the cuttings:-
-3.5 inch square pots are used to root in
-Filled with half perlite and half universal compost or allmix
-The mix is pre-soaked with water dosed with 1 ml of 35% or 2ml per litre of 17.5% H2O2 and 5 ml of maxicrop
-Then the cuttings are dibbed in to the compost, 9 to 12 per pot
-The dibbed cuttings are then watered in using a fine rose same mix as above to settle them in.
-Cover with a plastic bag and put under constant 24-hour lighting
-Preferably cool-white fluorescent lighting at 20 w per sq foot and a temperature of 75 degrees fahrenheit.
"There are a number of reasons for not rooting directly into plug trays." Lets
look at what we need from a rooted cutting... We want one that is
suited to growing in a confined space i.e. a pot. They are as closely
matched as possible. To get good yields from a grow, uniformity is the
rule. It is no good having one plant that produces 50 grams when its 2
neighbours only produce 15 grams each. They are identical stock but
this is what is often seen in grow after grow. It is much better to try
and get all the plants averaging 35 grams well within the capacity of
the stock line of a plant that can make 50 grams.
are talking about growing in soil based or soilless compost mixes. The
root type that the cutting produces is very important, lots of fine
feeder roots are the ideal, anchor and tap roots are totally unwanted
when growing in a pot. Remember the amount feeder root mass directly
effects the potential crop weight
The 3.5-inch pots are 4 inches
high; the rooting mix is very open with low nutrient content. This
encourages early taproot development. Not all the cuttings will have
rooted at the same time, so when they are transferred to the plug trays
the root balls are trimmed to the same size and the tap root is
removed, this goes a long way towards equalising the clones. Once they
are transferred as below they tend to stay pretty even and grow on
rapidly. To show what we are looking for some equalised clones grown on
and just put into flower. There are several varieties in this grow and
there is not more than an inch or so between plants in each variety.
They are placed by variety to make a stadium effect and make maximum
use of light.
Around ten days later the cuttings will have
rooted through. The rootball is gently broken up, each cutting has its
roots trimmed back to equalise the cuttings and make them fit the plug
tray! Full strength peat or coir compost using organic base
fertilisers, are used for this.
Then they are put back in the
Clone/Mother box for about 5/6 more days until thoroughly rooted
through, this is very important at all stages of repotting! Fully
rooted plants just jump ahead when moved on-- we have found that plants
moved into bigger pots too early typically produce 25% to 30% less
final crop weight!
Moving the rooted cuttings to plug trays.
Cuttings in plug trays a few days later ready to move on to their first pots.
Showing a cutting out of the plug tray, fully rooted out and ready to go.
Cutting like this can be taken from any plants in veg. That's it you are ready to grow!