Many people say that they do not like to clone with peat pellets because the plant's growth is stunted or they see growth mutations. I believe this is for one of two reasons;
- the peat is dense and doesn't allow enough oxygen to the roots when the cutting first takes, oxygen being critical for normal growth
- the nylon surrounding the peat pellets, although easy to tear, is difficult for delicate marijuana roots to penetrate. The nylon may resist roots from expanding in size.
I first noticed mutated and stunted growth on a small plant, so I ripped it out of the soil and examined what could be causing this plant to be held back and not achieve its full potential. I noticed some of the roots emitting from the peat pellet were as thick as my finger but bottle necked through the restrictive nylon. This has lead me to experimentation, and for the last few years, I've been using the following method with great success.
As far as I know the standard pellet size is 1.5" but I have seen little 'mini' pellets with new propagation trays in Wal-Mart etc, they look to be about 3/4" - I'm sure any size would work.. although anything much larger may not ever have protruding roots...
I float my pellets in a container of cool tap water (which contains low ppm's of chlorine) - essentially the chlorine would sterilize whatever is in there. I also add the recommended amount of 'No-Damp' when I soak my pellets.
Once my pellets have saturated as much water as they can hold and have full expanded, I gently squeeze them so they do not hold much water - kind of like a damp sponge. If you were to squeeze a properly prepared pellet, you may get one drop of water or water will wet your fingers but not drip.
You don't really want it much drier than that either. After that, once they have a cutting in them and they are under a dome, misting of the foliage is all that should be needed...they shouldn't dry out before you have roots.
I like to place my newly rooted cuttings into containers of soil and water them with a root growth accelerator and B1 to reduce shock and to kick start new growth. If I have a long stem before any leaves, then I'll plant deep. If the stem is short, then I plant it deep enough to ensure that all roots and scarification is beneath the soil.
Another thing I'd like to mention about peat pellets is that it is very important when you first have them to allow them to fully expand before placing new cuttings into them. You will see root growth from the bottom of your pellets if you have allowed your pellets to properly expand and become soft (Pellet are initially very hard).
Preparing the rooted clone
You are ready to apply this method once a cutting has shown root growth emerging from the pellet?s mesh.
Gently take your clone and very carefully start to tear away the nylon from the top. Slowly peel away torn sections of the mesh from the pellet being very careful around the roots because they will easily break off. Once you've successfully removed the mesh from most of the pellet, then you will need to gently slide the mesh off the length of the roots, being very careful not to damage the very delicate roots. You may need to pull the nylon from either side to stretch the holes to allow roots with more girth to easily slide out. Expect to break off a few roots, especially your first couple times attempting this.
Now you have removed the nylon meshing, your roots are no longer restricted. However, your newly rooted cutting is still encased within the dense peat pellet. Gently break off pieces of the peat and remove them being careful not to damage or break any roots. Remove as much of the peat as you can safely, and at times you can squeeze sections of the peat to make it crumble away if it is being held on by roots. You can see in second to last image I have applied the scarifying method to this cutting - it is showing lots of new root growth up the length of the stem.
Learn about root scarification here...
Once you have removed most of the peat, you can continue planting your newly rooted cutting as normal. Once again, it is important to apply this method as soon as you have roots emerging from the nylon meshing else it makes it very difficult to remove the mesh without damaging many roots. Also, it makes removing more of the peat material easier if the peat is not filled with roots aswell which would make things much more difficult.