The single most important part of your cannabis garden is an area that goes unseen and is often forgotten; your root system. Maintaining a healthy root system is an essential part of producing high quality cannabis. The root system functions as an interface with the outside world and serves as the foundation of from which your plants will grow.
The primary function of root systems is to absorb water and nutrients, and transfer them to the rest of the plant. The healthier an stronger the root system, the more lush and vibrant your cannabis will be.
As moisture is shed from your plant’s leaves, it is quickly replaced by water that is drawn up through the main stalk, originating from the root system. It is this natural suction that allows the water and nutrients to be distributed throughout the plant.
The root system is the single most important part of your garden, as damaged roots simply cannot provide the plant with the sustenance it needs to thrive. Learning how to keep your root system healthy is a fundamental part of earning your green thumb.
THE ROOT OF IT ALL
The root system can be compared to your heart or your brain. You just can’t live without ’em. Cannabis plants have their own organ systems, however, the only one that is vital to their survival is the root system.
Anyone who has broken a plant or accidentally cut it down while pruning knows that while the circumstances are far from ideal, the plant will continue to grow and reform, as long as the roots are in tact. Even the leaves that are a key element of photosynthesis can be stripped away and as long as your roots are healthy, all hope may not be lost.
One of the biggest problems with root systems is that they are out of sight, and therefore many times, out of mind. Often we don’t equate symptoms we may observe on the leaves or stalk with a problem in the root system. If your feed mix is right where you want it yet you’re still seeing deficiencies, it may not be your nutrient mix, it may be damaged roots.
Once your root system becomes damaged, it can manifest itself in many ways, but is often mistaken for basic deficiencies. So what causes root damage and how can you prevent it?
CAUSES OF ROOT DAMAGE
When roots become damaged they can no longer perform their role and your plant will suffer. There are many causes of root damage but the primary causes are from either over or under-watering.
Roots need to breathe. Even roots in soil need a balance of moisture and air to function properly. Over-watering floods the root system preventing them from absorbing oxygen. Excessive over-watering can lead to root rot, and the death of your garden. Under-watering has the opposite effect yet the same outcome.
With too little water, your root system will dry out and become brittle. Brittle roots can’t transport essential nutrients to the rest of the plant and in the end, it won’t survive.
If you are using nutrient salts, you run the risk of a nutrient burn to your root system if your mixture is too hot. Cannabis is all about thriving in that Goldie Locks zone where everything needs to be “just right.” Nutrients are no exception. This is where strain specific needs pay a role.
Different strains require different nutrient mixtures and if you apply the wrong one, you may risk excessive amounts of nutrients damaging the root system. Nutrient burns heavily impact the root’s ability to function and will manifest on the leaves of the plant.
One of the biggest causes of root damage found in cannabis grows is from pests. Root aphids and fungus gnats are your root system’s primary enemies. If you’re seeing tiny winged pests in your garden, then you may already have an infestation. Fungus gnats are typically a product of excessive moisture, not only from over-watering but from high humidity as well.
Fungus gnats start out as larvae in the soil that feed on the root system. This is bad for many obvious reasons. You don’t want anything feeding on your root system except your beautiful buds. Root aphids are similar in nature.
They begin as larvae and eventually transform, sprout wings and fly. By that point the damage to your roots is already done. Placement of sticky cards around your grow will be the best indicator of a problem.
HOW TO PROTECT YOUR ROOTS
The single biggest thing you can do to ensure healthy roots is to maintain a clean and dry environment in your garden. Not dry in as far as your humidity, but dry as in don’t leave large pools of unwanted water on your trays or the floor.
Excess water leads to so many of the problems that directly affect the root system. The increased water can lead to mildew and root rot. It also presents an ideal environment for fungus gnats to thrive and reproduce. One of the biggest causes of excess water is over-watering, however under-watering can be equally as devastating to your roots.
To maintain proper root health, know your plants and just how much water they need, as not all cannabis plants have the same requirements. Watering and nutrition, go hand in hand.
If you haven’t seen the pattern forming here, it’s all about maintenance of a proper ecosystem. That includes adequate amounts of nutrients, but not so much as to cause a burn. Ecosystems are all about balance.
All of the factors that contribute to healthy garden such as light, temperature and humidity, can easily lead to damage to your root system if that balance is offset.
You’ll find that with a little care, keeping your roots healthy will lead to a vibrant and bountiful harvest.