While the COVID-19 pandemic certainly taught the average American a new meaning for the word “quarantine,” it turns out this newly gained wisdom on the importance of quarantining is about as important when applied to one’s new cannabis clones too.
The number one important reason to quarantine any new clone is to prevent the spread of unseen pests and disease to other plants in the grow. Like humans, all plants carry microorganisms with them, and not all can be seen by the naked eye. Some of these organisms are incredibly detrimental to cannabis plant growth and should be addressed before one even thinks about the next step in the growing process.
With a focus on cannabis clones specifically set, also keep in mind these same general notions apply to all houseplants for future usage. When it comes to plants one is growing seed to flower, quarantining is not so much necessary unless one falls victim to one of the many ailments common to indoor plants, and unfortunately by then that might already be too late for the other plants given the close proximity.
However, new plants that are already in the middle to later stages of the growing process need to be quarantined. There are several instances where it best benefits the grower to isolate and quarantine a new plant, the main one being anytime a new plant arrives home. Additionally, any time pests or disease appear on current plants, it is time to isolate them too. If done in a timely manner, the future savings on time and possibly one’s crop are irreplaceable.
In order to quarantine a plant, of course, one needs a quarantine area. For outdoor crops, this is as easy as fencing off a section of garden, but indoor is another story. Setting up the proper isolation room does not sound too difficult, but the simplest mistakes in the process are often the most costly, and careful attention should be paid as such.
Ideally, the quarantine area would be a spare room separate from the main grow area, preferably a small bathroom or side room. Any well-ventilated room will work best, but ultimately pretty much any room can be fixed up for a temporary quarantine space, even basements with the right lighting and an extraction fan if space is at that much of a premium. The only room one cannot place a quarantined plant is the same room as the main garden.
Before the next step of cleaning out the designated quarantine room, one should thoroughly inspect the new plant for signs of any disease or pests before bringing it inside. Leaves and stems are the most obvious places to peruse, but also take the time to check the soil thoroughly too, ideally repotting with sterilized soil to ensure maximum cleanliness. For the extra thorough, a light spritz of soapy water all over the plant will act as a decontamination shower before bringing it in too.
Once the plant passes inspection, one should clean the quarantine room as one cleans their main grow room. After thoroughly cleaning the designated quarantine room, moving the plant from vehicle or prior location to its new home should be done quickly and entirely avoidant of the main grow area. Keeping the plant in its own little bubble like that ensures that bugs cannot leap or fly in an act of transference. This goes for any plant, not just other cannabis plants. No other plant should come in contact with the one going into quarantine.
Once the new plant is in its own quarantined room, one good idea is to leave sticky paper traps for winged pests just in case some get in. While the new plant stays in quarantine, there are two key rules to follow each visit: 1) Always change clothes and shower after visiting another grow site before tending to the quarantined plant, and 2) inspect the clone daily for eggs or pests themselves with a microscopic tool to see up close.
This routine is demanding, especially for the recommended 35-40 days for a quarantined clone, but do not forget that is the whole reason for the quarantine. Keeping the plant isolated will greatly reduce the chances of spreading any kind of disease to one’s already healthy plants. Follow-through is the most important thing in the whole endeavor after all!
Knowing the key rules for a quarantined grow is half the battle, knowing thy enemy is the other half. The most common pests for cannabis plants are aphids, whiteflies, thrips, spider mites, mealybugs, and fungus gnats. Each has their own egg cycle and adult cycle respectively and knowing each can help one determine how much work needs to be done securing their plant from these little monsters.
Aphids live roughly a month and their eggs are usually not a major issue unless its an infestation, but these flying insects should not be taking lightly for their surprisingly damaging herbaceous eating habits. The same can be said of adult whiteflies and thrips, who each live roughly two months give or take, but whose eggs hatch within a week and have the potential to overwhelm a plant quickly as a result.
The nasty bugs one must always be on the lookout for are the quick-reproducing and mass-producing. Spider mites are both, with females laying one to two hundred eggs during their lifespan of three to four weeks, and adults at full functionality within two weeks. Arguably the most common pest, spider mites are easily to spot by their telltale fuzzy webs on flower buds.
The other nasty bugs, mealybugs and fungus gnats, are equally insidious. Female mealybugs lay up to six hundred eggs over a week in their lifespan, which immediately replace them, while fungus gnat larvae hatches in only two to three days and feed in soil two to three weeks before reaching adulthood. The importance of changing a plant to a sterilized soil before quarantining cannot be emphasized enough when it comes to the destructive power of fungus gnats.
With proper care and attention, most pests can be found and stopped before they start, it all comes down to one’s power of observation. However, those certain hallmark rules mentioned above should be followed for maximum isolation protection of a new clone, like disinfecting oneself and limiting visitors. In harmony with a good human overseer, the resiliency of a new cannabis plant is certain to prosper in isolation before it can be determined good to join the main garden.
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