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We’re here today to talk about jiffy pellets and rockwool for seed germination. [picking up rockwool and jiffy pellet] On my right (probably your left), jiffy pellets, compressed peat pellets, completely dry and on my left (probably your right), rockwool. Now rockwool is inert and sterile which means we have to supplement it with nutrient and also ph adjusted water to compensate its own consistency. Now jiffy pellets on the other hand has got everything you could require for seed germination or for even taking cuttings apart from the essential part which is obviously water. There’s enough nutrient in there, there’s enough compost in there to keep a cutting or a seedling going until it’s got a good healthy root system. Jiffy pellets are ideal for beginners, completely and utterly due to the fact that all you have to do [drops jiffy pellet into container of water] is soak them in water.

Now the key to jiffy pellets is only to soak them for approximately five minutes. Now that is dependent on how hot or how cold the water is; if it’s very warm water, it’ll take less time, if it’s very cold water it will take more time. Now what we’ll do is that as soon as that jiffy pellet has swollen to its potential, I’ll pull it out to show you exactly how swollen it should be. The key with jiffy pellets is DO NOT oversoak them, I cannot stress that more. If you oversoak a jiffy pellet, they end up waterlogged.

When they’re waterlogged, if you put a seedling in, the seedling will germinate, or the cutting will take, but because they’re so waterlogged, no air to the root system and the root system will starve resulting in possibly a dead plant. If not a dead plant, a very stressed plant.

Now we’ll let the jiffy go in the background while I talk you through rockwool. Now this is the more professional way to cultivate seedlings or cuttings, but it takes a few variables to iron out before you get it absolutely right. Now rockwool on its own with plain water wouldn’t be good enough, you have to supplement it with nutrient and then you have to ph adjust the water and the nutrient solution to compensate its own consistency, which we’re going to do right now. Now, an ideal nutrient to use for seedlings or cuttings [picks up bottle of Formulex] is one called Formulex. Now Formulex is superb; it’s tailor made for rockwool cultivation; however any Grow A and B nutrient will suffice as long as you make it up to a weak CF level. Now CF, TDS, PPM; they’re all measurements to verify the electrical conductivity of the nutrients in the water, in layman’s terms it means how strong the food is in the water.

How strong your nutrient is… Now Formulex is designed already to be very low in the EC value, ok, it comes with full instructions on the back and tells you the dilution ratio. Now you can follow that to the T and you’ll end up in the right ball park; what we’re going to use, [picks up meters] being more professional, are meters. Now, we have a ph meter [holds meter up] and we have a CF meter [holds meter up], also called a TDS meter, also called a PPM meter. It’s the same thing, it just measures how strong the nutrient is, in the solution. I’ve just poured approximately 4 litres of water into this container for you to be able to see. Now what we’ve basically got to do is raise or add enough Formulex into the solution to bring the CF level up to approximately 12. Anywhere between 10 and 12 will suffice. But what is a good practice to do [picks up CF meter, opens box, takes meter out] before adding any nutrient to your stock solution is just to test before you do so, [puts meter into container of water] the conductivity factor of the water without any nutrients in it at all. Now it’s given me a reading of 4, that’s a TDS level of 4. [takes meter out of container of water] What that means is, there’s basically a conductivity factor of 4 which is dissolved salts into the water already, but that is what they would call blind water or blind salts.

The salts they’ve gathered are actually dead salts. So that’s given us a reading of 4, well that 4 is actually misleading us because it has no usable nutrient in there because it’s dead already, ok, so we have to make a note that that’s reading 4 and add that to the equation. Now 4 is quite high, so we always recommend halving the background nutrient reading and adding that to your stock solution. So if you’re looking for a CF of 12 for the background for the rockwool, [picks up rockwool cube] you want to add another 2 to the equation because we’ve already got 4 in the water but that’s 4 of dead salts, ok.

Now, to put that in English, we’ve got food in the water which is unusable food and what we’re going to do is add food to the water. Now this pen reads exactly how much unusable salts are in the water. So what we’ve got to do is take that and compensate against how much of this we put in. In so doing, it’s reading 4, we’re going to say ok it’s misleading us by 2, because we’re halving the original amount just to make sure that we’re in the right ball park. If you over feed in hydroponics you end up coming unstuck, if you under feed, you always have a result, so always do everything by half and then look to step up. Now, what we’re going to do [picks up bottle, shakes it and opens it] is add some Formulex into the stock solution [picks up meter in the other hand] to raise the water up to a CF level of 12. Twelve is absolutely ideal level for seedlings and cuttings, ok; it’s been tried and tested and scientifically proven that a level between 10 and 12 is approximately what a seedling or cutting would require with a little bit excess just in case it does have a lot of vigour to grow. Anything above 12, you’ll be doing your seedlings a lot of damage because it will be too much dissolved salts in the water for the seedling to absorb. Now that would cause a problem to the root ball; it could burn it and therefore cripple your plant.

Now, we’ve done this quite a few times, so what I’m going to do is put a wee splash into the solution, [adds solution to water] ok, now I’m going to give it a little stir, [stirs solution with meter] it’s not the ideal thing to stir with, is a nutrient meter, but it will suffice and then take another reading. Ok, we’re up to a CF reading of 6 now, so we’ve got to add some more. Now I’m just going to get some pipettes to do it properly [walks of set to get pipettes] OK, pipettes are well worth using obviously because they have millilitres measured on the side of them. Now, in this, it basically explains that in hydroponics you want one capful to 1.5 litres of water, ok, now instructions are great but it’s always best to do it yourself and confirm it with the meters; you know then that you’ve got it approximately spot on. [dips pipette into bottle] So what we’re going to do is suck up another 4 ml, splash that in, and give it a stir. And it’s always worth bringing it up gradually, slowly and that way you don’t have to [puts meter into solution] keep pouring nutrient away in order to get it right. We’re now up to a CF level of 8, ok, so approximately another 3 ml [puts pipette into bottle, adds to the solution, stirs it] should bring it where we roughly need it. [puts meter into solution] OK. We’re now up to CF level of 12, now 12 in this case is perfect, 10 to 12 is really where we want it.

Now, once we’ve added nutrient, we then test for ph. [picks up ph meter, takes it out of the case] You always test ph after CF because adding nutrient to your stock solution adjusts the ph naturally. Now, one ph meter, popped in [puts meter into solution] is telling us that we have a ph reading of 7.3, now 7.3 is very high, too high for rockwool. Ok if you soak that in that solution, put the seedling in, the seedling will be stressed because the ph is far too high for it to grow happily.

Now what we have are 2 solutions, [picks up a bottle in each hand] phosphoric acid ok and potassium acid. Now potassium acid is used to raise ph in your stock solution where phosphoric acid is used to lower ph in your stock solution. Now the reason that these 2 bottles are in bags, sealed, is because when mixed together in a concentrate, they’re diametrically opposed which means that they conflict to such a degree that they could explode and if these explode in your face you end up in the hospital explaining why you’ve got potassium and phosphoric acid all over you. Whatever you do, always keep these bottles separate, always administrate them into your reservoir separately. What we recommend doing is actually having one pipette per job [picks up pipette, one in each hand with the bottles], get some elastic bands, get some ink pens and actually colour code one pipette per bottle. That way you’ll never get them muddled up. If you end up taking a pipette full of ph down, putting it in your tank and then putting that pipette into some ph up, the pipette will explode and it’s not a very nice scene. BE WARNED!! Never mix the 2 together; they’re quite safe diluted in a solution, but as a concentrate, they’re very, very aggressive.

OK, now what we’re going to do is use ph down [puts ph up bottle and pipette down on left hand side] because in this case, the ph level is too high. So, we’ll crank it out of the bag, [removes packaging from bottle] one pipette over there [puts one pipette on left hand side] get rid of that [throws packaging down] , give it a little shake. [shakes bottle, removes cap] Now, ph down is very, very aggressive, so you only have to administer tiny amounts; in this case, [dips pipette into bottle] all we are going to administer or administrate [puts ph down bottle down on right hand side] I should say, is the amount on the exterior side of the pipette. [puts pipette into solution and stirs]

Ok, so we’ve not actually put any in apart from the residue that’s on the outer edge of the pipette. [puts pipette down on right hand side, and picks up meter] Then, we’ll stir it up and we’ll retest. We could have possibly put 1 or 2 drops in but as I said earlier, it’s always best to underdo everything, do everything slowly and do it again and again and you’ll get it roughly where you need it.

Ok, we’ve just lowered the ph through doing that down to 7.2, so what we’ll do is we’ll do that again, [picks up bottle, dips pipette in] but in this case add a little drop as well, so one tiny drop [puts pipette into solution and stirs] and a little bit of exterior on the pipe, pop it in, give it another stir, [picks up pipette and stirs again, puts the meter back in] ok, we’re down to 6.9 so we’ve still got a little way to go, [picks up bottle of ph down again, puts pipette into the bottle] one more little drop, [puts pipette into solution, stirs, puts bottle and pipette down on right hand side, puts meter in again] Ok. We got it down now to 6.1, 6.1 so one more go at that, [dips pipette into bottle, puts pipette into solution, gives it another stir] give it a good stir, [puts meter in again] ok, 5.7, 5.6… 5.6 . Right, that’s good enough, the value I was looking for was 5.5 , but 5.6, 5.5 is roughly where you need it. Good enough, you don’t have to get it absolutely spot on, if you take it too far down then you’ve got to use ph up which you don’t want to do, you’d have to throw the stock solution away and start again. You don’t want to use a lot of ph up and ph down together at this stage for seedlings or cuttings. If you use too much of it, it’s very, very aggressive and it can do the root system a lot of damage. [picks up rockwool cube] If you end up taking the ph too far down, you’re much better off throwing the stock solution away and starting again from scratch. OK so, we’ve the level now to 5.6, which is good enough. Ideally, I would have wanted 5.5, but 5.6 will suffice, I don’t want to take it down any further in case it goes too far down.

Now, what you’ve done basically is added nutrient into the solution to a level of CF of 12 or TDS of 12, we’ve then adjusted the stock solution down to a ph level of 5.6; we’re now ready to soak the rockwool cube. [drops rockwool cube into solution] Now, while that’s soaking; [removes jiffy pellet from solution] our jiffy pellet is finished ok. What was a very squashed peat pellet, [picks up dry peat pellet in other hand] compressed, is now a very swollen sack of dirt. Now that is basically the consistency where you’ll want it where if you give it a slight squeeze, [squeezes jiffy pellet slightly] it drips. It’s wet enough to keep your seedling going for at least 3 or 4 days, but it’s also wet enough to let air in for the root system to breathe. Now what you would do with a jiffy pellet; I’ll use a different pipette, [picks up a pipette and pokes the pellet] is make a hole approximately 3 ml beneath the surface, 3 – 5 ml; you’d then pop your desired seed into the jiffy pellet and then cover the seed over, ok, you’d cover it over to a degree where it is cocooned in the dirt itself.

The seedling has to be cocooned to keep the moisture completely around it to encourage the seed to germinate. At that point, it is then ready to go into your propagator. Perfect. [puts jiffy pellet down] Now, while that’s been soaking, [puts hand into container and removes soaked rockwool cube] our rockwool has soaked down to the bottom, now some people like to soak rockwool overnight; it allows the chlorine to rise and that way, when you pull the rockwool out it doesn’t have a lot of chlorine in the actual rockwool itself. However, you don’t have to, I mean to be quite frank, as long as its soaked and sunk all the way down to the bottom, it’s good enough to receive the seedling. Now the key with rockwool is now to [squeezes rockwool cube slightly] give it a squeeze, ok, the idea of a squeeze is to get approximately 5-10 % of the volume of water out of the rockwool in order to get oxygen in. If we put a seedling in without the squeeze, you end up with a waterlogged rockwool block. When you put the seed into a waterlogged rockwool block, same thing like the jiffy, it ends up rotting because it cannot breathe properly.

A seed or a cutting needs just the right amount of food, not too much, just the right ph level and just the right wetness. Not too wet, but more wet than dry, so the key to it is just to squeeze 5-10% of volume out of the rockwool itself. So we’ve got water in there, we’ve got nutrient in there, we’ve got air in there; we’ve got everything the seedling needs. We’ll then make, [picks up pipette and pokes hole into rockwool cube] just like in the jiffy pellet, approximately a hole 5 ml beneath the surface, we then get the seed and pop the seed into the hole and then gently cover the seed over. Now with rockwool, do not pinch it tight. When you’re covering the seed over, you have to do it gently. A seedling only has enough inertial energy to get up ok, if it’s blocked, if this rockwool has been squashed too tightly, it will not fight its way through to the surface, it’ll end up dying. So you just cover it over gently and then it’s ready to go into your propagator. That’s how you do rockwool, that’s how you do jiffy pellets.

Ph meters are semi waterproof [dips meter into container] up until the first ridge on the meter. If you accidentally drop them in, fully submerge them, you want to pull them out and turn them off and put them on a radiator and dry them out. There’s a good chance they’ll come back to life, however, they might be completely and utterly fried. So they are semi waterproof but not fully waterproof and they work after; well it’s a good idea to give them about 5 seconds in order to give a proper reading because it can fluctuate because of the temperature in the water; it has to compensate for. That’s a ph meter, and then always turn it off after use [puts ph meter down and picks up CF meter] because if you leave it on after use, it ends up wearing the batteries out which is going to give you a fake reading the next time you use it. So switch it on, [dips CF meter into container] dip it in, get the reading you want, turn it off. At that point, you then adjust your solution.

OK, we’ve just talked about ph meters and CF meters. [Takes a meter in either hand] Ph, [puts right hand up with ph meter] CF [puts left hand up with CF meter] also known as TDS, PPM, so on and so forth. It measures the amount of food in the reservoir, [lifts left hand up and forward] that measures the ph level in the reservoir. [lifts right hand up and forward]

Now it’s very good practice once every couple of weeks to calibrate your meters. If you don’t calibrate them, you don’t know that they’re reading a true reading. In so doing you could be feeding your plants too much or too less or you could be getting the ph completely and utterly wrong.

Now, on a ph meter, [keeps meter in right hand and picks up a bottle with left hand] you use a solution called Buffer 7. Buffer 7 is specifically balanced at a ph level of 7, ok what you’d basically do with this is pour it in a cup, get the meter in and then see exactly what the meter is reading. There’s a little screw on the back [turns meter over and points to back] and a little screwdriver that comes in the case [takes screwdriver out of case] and that is how you would adjust the level of calibration.

What we’re going to do is actually do it right now [puts meter down, removes cap from bottle] so that you can see. So what I’m doing is pouring buffer 7 into a glass, [pours solution into glass] we then turn the meter on and then dip it in. OK. Now what we’ve got is a reading of 7.2 so 7.2 is slightly high [picks up screwdriver and adjusts meter] so it needs a little bit of adjustment. So we put the little screwdriver in the back, give it a little twizz one way – I’ve gone too far that way so then I go back a little bit the other way – a little bit of fine adjustment back and forth to get to a ph level of 7. [removes meter from glass] Now that meter is now perfectly calibrated ph 7 so we know it’s true. That’s how you ph calibrate.

This is how you CF/TDS calibrate. [picks up CF meter in right hand] This pen uses a different calibration solution. [picks up bottle in left hand] They call it conductivity standard. Basically, it is stable at CF level of 27. So when you pour that into a cup and pop the meter in, the reading that you want to be looking for is 27. If it’s too high, if it’s too low, same story, put the pen in, the screwdriver in, twist it one way or the other till you get to 27. We’ll do that for you right now just to show you how easy it is. [puts meter down, removes cap from bottle, pours some solution into glass] So pour a little bit into a glass, get your TDS meter, pop it in, and this is actually showing me a reading of 27 so I don’t need to do any adjustment, but if you did, just stick the screwdriver in the back and turn it one way or the other to compensate and that is basically how you simply calibrate meters. Now a lot of people think that that’s very difficult but I can’t see why. Ideally, once you’ve used your solution in a cup, they recommend to throw it away because the more air and the more contact it has with other surfaces, the more unstable it becomes. However, it’s a bit puritanical and you can get away with pouring it back into the bottle. It’s good practice to throw it away, but you can get away with not, ok. Which a lot of these fluid manufacturers won’t tell you about. That’s how you calibrate.

You put the seed into the rockwool or the jiffy pellet [holding jiffy pellet in one hand and rockwool cube in other hand] or even both depending on what you fancy doing at the time, they then would like to go into a propagator. [holds both jiffy pellet and rockwool cube in one hand and picks up the propagator in the other hand] The propagator basically acts as like, an external womb for the rockwool or the jiffy pellet. It creates maximum humidity in the environment. In so doing, it stabilises the environment, encourages the seed to germinate. Now we recommend [puts propagator down, removes lid] putting your seedlings and cuttings in – [puts jiffy pellet and rockwool cube into the propagator] they don’t want to be sat in a puddle of water, ok, but a little bit of excess water in the drain [picks up propagator to show drain] is not going to hurt, but as I said do not let the rockwool have direct contact with that puddle of water. In so doing that rockwool or jiffy pellet will become waterlogged and that will be no good for your seedlings.

Now what would happen is that you would put them in, you’d shut the lid and you’d then close the air vents and before long the whole chamber becomes covered in moisture, in condensation. You would then put that in a very warm sort of environment – airing cupboard. If you have a heated propagator you don’t have to worry about that, you just turn the heat on, however, that’s dependant on the time of year. If it’s anything like the weather at the moment which is approximately 30 degrees, you don’t need to put that in an airing cupboard, ok, it’ll do quite happily on its own in a normal room. If it’s in the middle of the winter, than ideally it would want to go somewhere like an airing cupboard, just for the initial germination process.

OK. No light is needed at this point, it just needs to go somewhere warm, warm but not very hot. Now over the course of possibly 24 hours, but it could also take up to 7 days, the seedling will germinate. It will start to grow [puts propagator down and removes lid] and it will start to develop. Now initially, [removes rockwool cube from propagator] it will basically it won’t look much like a plant at all. As soon as you see any sign of life, anything breaking through the top of the rockwool or through the top of the jiffy pellet, [picks up jiffy pellet] then it’s time to employ some form of lighting. Either put that by the window sill or put actually under your light. Now, if you put this by the window sill, seedlings cannot tolerate direct sunlight; if they get direct sunlight on a hot summer’s day, then there’s a good chance that they’ll fall over because they won’t be able to take the intensity of the light or the heat generated from the sun. So ideally, they would want to go under a propagation light, high frequency fluorescent lights are perfect for that, mercury blend 250 watts are perfect for that.

Now if you are going to use an industrial light, like the high density discharge, metal halides or high pressure sodiums, you want to make sure they’re an adequate distance away from the canopy of the propagator. If you are using a 400 watt high pressure sodium for example, I would want it approximately 3-4 foot away from the canopy of the propagator. That should have enough distance between the light to the actual seedling itself that the light dissipates down to such a degree that it’s adequate light for them but not too intense.

Right, with a 400 watt light, approximately 3-4 foot away from the lid of the propagator, ok, and you would want to run that light, well, I’d have it at least 18 hours a day, possibly 20 hours a day, so about 4 foot away, approximately there from the lid [shows distance between propagator and light] Now I wouldn’t run the light 24 hours a day as a lot of grow books say. What you’ll find is that if you run a light 24 hours a day for seedlings is that you end up stressing them out and undue stress is not what they need at this particular point in their life. They’re very, very fragile and they need an easy breaking in not a hard one. So give them a sleep, the whole of nature to my knowledge requires sleep why are seedlings going to be any different? These books that state 24 hour lighting, it can work in a lot of cases but it also has a lot of detrimental affects that they don’t tell you about. So lighting on for approximately 18-20 hours a day, approximately 4 foot away from the canopy, the seedling will start to grow. Before long, it will develop leaves. [picks up rockwool cube from propagator] Now ideally, what will happen is before it’s develop ed enough leaves, or sustained itself to a degree where it can be transplanted into another system, you would want to break it in to a bigger rockwool cube, ie what will happen is roots will grow out of the side and the bottom.

They’re going to become root bound before you can actually get them into another system. However, they’re still very young and still very fragile so what we recommend doing is that as soon as any roots start growing through the side and through the bottom, you then need to transplant that rockwool cube to a bigger rockwool cube and then put it back into the propagator and propagate for some more. [puts small rockwool cube down, goes off stage to get more props] I’ll get you that cube just to show you it. This is a whole strip of rockwool cubes, [holding strip of rockwool blocks] you break one off. With the stock solution, again adjust the CF level to around 12 then bring the ph down to around 5.5. You can use Formulex again, [picks up bottle] it’s tailor made for rockwool or at this point you can go to Grow A and Grow B nutrient solution, but again when you add the Grow A and Grow B, you have to make it to quite a weak CF level to approximately 12 which if you was measuring it from the instructions on the back, one third the dilution ratio they tell you on the back. So what you would then do is drop your rockwool cube into the stock solution, [drops rockwool block into solution] allow it to saturate, again you can leave it overnight if you wish otherwise just let it get to the bottom and then pull it out, [pulls out rockwool block] give it a squeeze to get rid of approximately 10% of the water content from the cube and then without damaging the roots [picks up small rockwool cube and inserts into larger rockwool block] that are already there, ease it into the block and then squeeze it tight. That will then go back into your propagator, ok and you would then water it less, because it is in a much bigger medium, it holds the water more so at that point you’ll probably find that you need to water it every 4-5 days instead of every 2-3 days. Ideally, I would then want to propagate with the lid on until you’ve got at least 3-5 sets of leaves.

Now if you’re in a jiffy pellet, and the roots have grown through the side and bottom, we still recommend going into a bigger rockwool block so although you avoided doing the ph adjustment and CF adjustment to get the seedling going, you now have to do it for the bigger rockwool block. [picks up another rockwool block] Once you’ve done it, the same thing would apply, you would soak it, [drops rockwool block into solution] get it to a level where it is completely saturated, [removes rockwool block] give it a wee squeeze and you put the jiffy pellet in its place. That would then go back in the propagator. Now ideally, you would want to propagate till you’ve got 3-4 sets of decent leaves. I’m not talking about leader leaves, the original set, I’m talking about decent leaves so fundamentally what you have is almost a very small plant. At that point you know it’s a secure plant even if you shock the life out of it, it shouldn’t die. It’s at a point now where it’s eager to live and strong and it can survive most situations. This is the point if I was a beginner, that I would then transplant it into the system. However, I would wait until roots are growing through the bottom or growing through the sides. Ideally, you do need to see root systems coming through the side or bottom before going into your system. Most systems run on a lot of water, now if the rockwool blocks become absolutely saturated and the root ball isn’t through the rockwool block then what will happen is it will starve itself of aeration and prohibit the growth of the plant, so wait until you’ve got nice roots growing through the side and bottom, 3-4 sets of leaves at that point it can go into your system.

That is seedling/young plant propagation process finished.

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