Once your seedlings or clones have established a root system and have "hardened off," they can be transplanted into your system. If you used Perfect Starts or another plug or cube type starting medium, this process involves nothing more than placing them into your system and turning it on. If you used a loose starting medium like perlite or coco coir, you'll need to use a basket liner to keep the loose material from falling into your system and clogging it. I have experimented with aquarium filter cloth and have found that a fine layer of filter cloth between the coco coir and net cups seems to work well. There are now coir cup liners made from coco fibers as well. To transplant into the hydroponic planter systems described later in the book, dig a small hole in the LECA, place the new plants into the hole and gently fill in the LECA around the roots. To place your plants into net cups and try to get the roots as close to the bottom as possible. Fill in around the roots/sponge/cube with LECA to hold it in place.
When you first place the plants into your system, give them a few days of lower than normal lighting so that they can recover from the move and re-establish their vigorous growth. Keep a watchful eye on your new plants. If they look a little wilted, reduce the intensity of the lighting. It is also a good idea to water your plants from above with the nutrient solution for a few days. This will ensure that their roots are kept moist while they are adjusting to their new home. The picture at left shows salad greens and basil seedlings after they were transplanted to grow cups in preparation for placement in my PVC system. I usually keep them in the cups outside of the garden (as pictured) for about three days under soft fluorescent light and top water them before placing them into the system and under HID lights. If you are growing indoors under an HID light or if you are growing outdoors in the sunshine, it is a good idea to harden off your seedlings/rooted cuttings this way by placing them near a sunny window (but out of direct light), or by lifting your grow lamp to about twice its normal distance from the plants. Once they have two to four days of reduced light, you can gradually start increasing their exposure. Once their roots find your nutrient solution, watch out! They'll grow like crazy!
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