Germinating Seeds In Rockwool Cubes
Germinating seeds in rockwool cubes will be a great process for your plant’s growing experience. Rockwool is a soil-free medium or substrate used for starting seeds. They can as well be used in hydroponics or stem rooting.
Rockwool offers so many benefits in almost any type of plant which makes it popular and best-loved among most growers.
This article attempts to enlighten you on germinating seeds in rockwool cubes and more, so read on to learn.
Table of Contents
Rockwool are made from spinning chalk and basalt rock which are formed into a thick mat of natural fibers. The combinations are made to look like the consistency of cotton candy. The spun fibers are then combined with a binding agent. The materials are pressed and formed into cubes which we know as rockwool cubes. Mostly, rockwool cubes can come in one or two inches sizes: although, you can also obtain bigger rockwool cubes of about four inches.
The smallest rockwool sizes are the most appropriate for starting seeds, leaf cuttings, and stem propagation. Bigger rockwool cubes are mainly used to grow denser plants.
Guide On Germinating Seeds In Rockwool Cubes
Seed germination requirements can sometimes demand careful and precise planning or process. Take for instance moisture requirements: moisture is an essential factor when it comes to seed germination.
Therefore, rockwool cube is a great choice to use in germinating seeds because rockwool cube has the ability to retain moisture. Rockwool cubes will keep your seeds moist at the same time preventing your seeds from sitting in a waterlogged environment. They can retain just the right amount of water to keep your seeds from drying out thereby improving the germination of your seeds.
How To Start Seeds In Rockwool
- The first step to take in germinating seeds in rockwool cubes is the preparation of the rockwool cubes. Rockwool cubes need to be soaked in pH adjusted reverse osmosis water before use. They don’t require too much soaking; however, ensure the cubes are fully absorbed in water.
- Soaking is required because rockwool cubes usually have a high pH of about 7.8 but your seeds will require a pH of 5.5 which is a slightly acidic medium. This way, your seeds will have an optimal chance of germinating and sprouting appropriately.
- Remove the rockwool cubes from the soaked water and give them a gentle shake to take off excess water. However, don’t squeeze them. Now your cubes are ready to be seated in your germinating tray.
- Most rockwool cubes have holes in them, so get your seeds and drop them into the holes of the rockwool seeds. With a toothpick or other identical objects, gently bring down the seeds to the bottom holes.
- Now squeeze the rockwool hole to close them or simply break off a little piece of the rockwool from the sides to cover the top. The seeds need to be placed in a dark environment.
- Now cover with a humidity dome so that they can maintain a humid environment. Keep them at 70 to 80 degrees. Now you can place them in a gentle grow light.
- You can maintain a moist environment by misting with a spray bottle whenever you notice them drying out. Sprouting should be noticed after a couple of days.
- When the plantlets are about 2 to 3 inches, they are ready to be transplanted into your hydroponics or traditional soil.
Benefits Of Start Seeds In Rockwool
- Water Retention: rockwool cubes have an excellent water retention property which is very essential for the germination of your seeds. At the same time, rockwool will not waterlog your system. It has the ability to drain excess water, retaining just the right amount of water needed by your seeds to germinate.
- Air Circulation: rockwool cubes will provide good air circulation and oxygenation of the root system.
- Clean: rockwool is a clean or sterile medium and it doesn’t have any weeds, pathogens, or pests.
- Reusable: rockwool cubes doesn’t decompose over time. Therefore, it can be reused over again.
- Safe: they are made from natural materials. Thus, it is very safe to use for your germinating seeds because it doesn’t contain any toxic substances.
Closing Remark- Rockwool Germination
Rockwool cubes are a great substrate for seed starters. They are safe and will provide your seed with good moisture and oxygen for optimal germination.
They come in various sizes and shapes and they can blend into different growing systems. So, give your seeds an excellent germinating chance with rockwool.
Hydroponic Growing Mediums: How to Plant into Rockwool Cubes
Pros and Cons of Using Rockwool Cubes as a growing medium
Pros of growing in Rockwool cubes
- Sterile medium for cloning
- Good drainage
- Excellent for seed germination
- Can use any nutrient solution
- Easy to transplant
- Easy for roots to penetrate
- Can be added to compost
Cons of Rockwool cubes as a hydroponic growing medium
- Naturally High pH
- Not sustainable
- Not biodegradable
- Potentially dangerous to human health
- Grows surface algae
What is a Rockwool cube made of?
Rockwool cubes are made from chalk and the basalt rock that is formed by volcanoes, heated to a high degree (3000 ℉ ) of heat then spun and cooled. Next, a binder is added and the substrate is flattened to form a sheet. Rockwool is often sold as a hydroponic growing medium in granulate mini blocks, starter plugs, cubes, and slabs. Their dense structure promotes strong root development making it ideal for seed starting in a hydroponic system. Although Rockwool is made from natural materials, the process is not natural making the substrate unsustainable, energy-intensive, and not biodegradable.
The physical properties and harmful chemicals of Rockwool cause skin, eye, and lung irritation and have been linked to long-term health concerns. ( Environmental Protection Agency lists it as a “Group 2B” material)
Are Rockwool cubes good for cloning?
Rockwool is a sterile, manufactured substrate containing no pests, weed seeds, or diseases making it a common choice for cloning plants in a sterile environment. This also means that it contains no beneficial fungi or nutrients. This is ideal for those wanting to retain full control of their nutrient solution and regimen.
When cloning in any soilless media it is important to maintain humidity with a humidity dome throughout the rooting process. We recommend using our 6” tall humidity domes to provide growing space and ideal conditions for new seedlings and stem cuttings.
Hydroponic Gardening with Rockwool
Seed Starting Using Rockwool Cubes
Seeds are easy to plant in the 2 inch Rockwool cubes that fit inside the Bootstrap Farmer 32-cell insert tray. These typically have an indentation in the center for the seed or seeds. For smaller seeds, dip a moistened toothpick into your seeds to pick up one or two. Insert the toothpick into the indentation and twist it against the side of the hole to release the seeds.
Once all of the cells have been planted, ensure that the media is evenly moist and place under a blackout dome until the majority of the seeds have sprouted.
Planting clones in Rockwool cubes
Planting softwood clones in mineral wool work very well because of the moisture-retaining properties. When a new cutting is starting to form root buds, drying out could send the cutting back into survival mode instead of new plant development. To plant clones, use sterile equipment to take a stem cutting from the mother plant. Dip the end of each stem cutting into rooting hormone, honey, or aloe powder to protect it from bacteria. Push the cutting into the cube at least an inch deep but not through to the bottom.
The cubes can then be placed into a tray with holes or one of these mesh tray sets for the rooting period. The mesh tray will allow for easy bottom watering with the 1020 deep tray while the humidity dome will ensure proper moisture levels until roots have formed. Place the entire 1020 on a heat mat with a thermostatand keep between 70℉ and 80℉ until root growth is established.
What can I use instead of Rockwool cubes?
Sterile growing media like ProMix , soil blocks, coco coir , hemp mats , clay pellets, decomposed granite, perlite, vermiculite, peat moss, and potting soil are all viable alternatives to using a Rockwool slab or cube for starting seeds, planting, and cloning.
How often should you water seedlings in Rockwool?
Rockwool is very good at holding moisture. Its superior water retention abilities make it ideal for delicate new growth. Plants growing in Rockwool can handle daily waterings. The material of the Rockwool also allows excellent air circulation, making overwatering difficult. This makes it an ideal substrate for hydroponic techniques. Rock wool cubes are often planted into 32 cell trays and watered in a flood and drain system like this automated grow rack .
What is the pH of Rockwool?
Rockwool tends to be too basic for most plants that prefer acidic soil conditions. With a pH between 7 and 8, you must presoak Rockwool in a slightly acidic solution (pH 5.5 to 6.5) for at least an hour before use. This can be done by adding several drops of lemon juice or pH down to the water, using pH test strips to attain the correct acidity. Once in use, you need to pay attention to the pH as it can quickly shift. This is why many prefer to use coco coir instead of Rockwool.
Can I put Rockwool in my compost?
While Rockwool or any type of mineral wool is not biodegradable it can be added to compost in order to add drainage and eventual mineral content to the resulting soil. If you plan to add your used Rockwool cubes to your compost bin you will want to shred them as much as possible before mixing them in. Left whole they can persist in the soil indefinitely because mineral wools do not contain any organic matter.
Some growers choose to reuse Rockwool although it is not recommended because once the cubes are full of roots they can begin to harbor mold, fungus, and detrimental bacteria. If you do choose to reuse your cubes, allow the roots inside to dry completely and then sterilize them by submerging them in boiling water for at least 10 minutes. For more information on proper equipment, cleaning check out this article on How to Wash and Care for Seedling Trays.
Rockwool can be a great tool for hydroponics, cloning, and seed starting. While it does come with some limitations, it can be the perfect substrate for certain applications. For more information on ways, growers and gardeners alike start their seeds indoors, check out Seed Starting: 101 Starting Seeds Indoors For Your Garden.
Preparing rockwool for cannabis seeds
If you’re ready to start growing and want to find out the best seedbanks that ship to the U.S. click here.
After acquiring growing equipment and cannabis seeds I now had everything I needed to start growing marijuana. The first major step in this process is germinating the seeds or getting the plant to sprout from the seed.
The Plan: Use Rockwool to Sprout and Grow
There are many numerous methods germinating seeds. Popular methods include using paper towels, solo cups or just directly inserting seeds into soil.
I decided to use rockwool cubes as my germination / sprouting medium. It seemed like many people had success using rockwool to start their homegrows. In addition, I liked how after they sprouted it’s easy to transport to soil (the cube has a solid structure) without disturbing the root structure which stresses the plant.
My plan for growing the marijuana plant using rockwool was as follows:
- Insert the cannabis seed in the rockwool cube (1.5 inch size)
- Let it germinate and sprout
- Transfer the cube into a pot with soil
- Let it grow and flower on my balcony
- Harvest the fruits of my labor
When formulating this plan I was a little hesitant as I hadn’t seen that many people using this process. Most people if they use rockwool stay with rockwool in a hydroponic indoor growth setup. I didn’t find many people who took the rockwool cube and transferred it to soil after it sprouted and wasn’t sure if this would work.
From this Question & Answer post someone asked if you could use rockwool outside and answered:
Sure, you can grow autoflowering plants using rock wool cubes outside or inside. If you are using the large cubes you can put them into a fabric container, plastic, etc., but they do need a place for the water to run out of them when it rains and when you water.
Granted this was only one answer and didn’t mention if it’s OK to transfer rockwool directly into soil. A little further digging and I found this snippet from another guide which said:
Another method is to use 3″ rockwool cubes to start seedlings in, then put 20 of them in a litter pan, cover it with another pan, and transport this to the grow site. The cubes can be planted directly into soil.
That was good enough (I’m so trusting about stuff I read online) for me so I decided to proceed.
Below will show you what the whole process looks like in video form:
Preparing Rockwool Cubes for Germination
The downside to using rockwool is the need to prepare the cubes before you insert your seeds. Rockwool has a pH of 7.8 and plants like a pH range of 5.5 – 6.8. If you were to simply insert the seeds into rockwool soaked in regular water the pH would be too high and will cause the seed not to sprout or kill the seed.
To prevent this from happening you use an acid like pH Down (phosphoric acid) which can bring down the pH level of the water you plan to soak your cubes in. This is why it was important to buy a reliable pH meter.
Calibrating the pH Meter
The pH Meter I bought was new so even before I could start soaking my cubes I needed to calibrate it first.
Bringing Down the pH
Now I had to mix a proper pH water solution to soak the cubes in. I filled a plastic food container with Brita filtered water (don’t think this is needed, but why not?) and added 0.25ml (a few drops) of pH Down. I stopped when I got to a pH level of 6.1.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Use pH Down sparingly as it’s a strong acid and will quickly bring down the pH level if you use too much. I ended up going too low and had to add more water to bring the pH back up. Better to be more conservative with this stuff.
Soak the Rockwool Cubes
With the rockwool cubes properly pH adjusted to 6.1 I placed 5 rockwool cubes into the solution for 60 minutes. As for the exact time to soak I found conflicting advice. Some guides said to soak for a whole day while others said 15 minutes. I took a gamble with 60 minutes.
Remove Cubes and Let Drain
After 60 minutes I removed the rockwool cubes and let it drain in the sink for 10 minutes. I was surprised how little water came out and how firm the cubes still were after being soaked. I thought from pictures that rockwool would be like a sponge, but it holds its structure surprisingly well.
Another tip I learned is to not squeeze out or shake out the water from the cubes. You want the cube to be damp as the wetness is what helps trigger the germination process.
Saving Some of the pH Adjusted Water
Instead of tossing away the reduced pH water I saved some in a separate container. As you wait for your seeds to sprout you may need to re-water the rockwool cubes if they get dry. Re-using this water saves you from having to mix up another batch of reduced pH water.
Insert the Seeds and Store
Now that the cubes were properly prepared it was time to insert the marijuana seeds and store them in an ideal sprouting environment.
Inserting the Cannabis Seeds
I placed the cubes into the seedling starter tray and then inserted each seed about a quarter of an inch into the 1.5 inch cube. The seeds are really tiny so to help I used tweezers to place them inside the cubes.
Here’s a video of me inserting one seed into a cube:
Place Humidity Lid and Store
With the seeds now inserted I placed the humidity dome / lid onto my starter tray (came with the set I bought). The reason for the lid is it helps keep the humidity high which assists with the germination process.
In addition to humidity in order to trigger the sprouting process experts advice to place the seeds in a dark environment. This mimics being in soil and coaxes the seed to sprout. To do this I placed the tray onto a shelf in a storage closet.
Wait for Sprouting
Once setup it could take anywhere from a few days to a week or more before the seed sprouts. Just check on it each day to see the progress. You probably won’t need to add additional water as rockwool does a good job at retaining water. However, if you touch the cube and feels dry it doesn’t hurt to add some of the pH-adjusted water you saved from earlier.
Below you can see a time-lapse of a marijuana seed germination process.
FAQ on Cannabis Seed Germination
If you are using the rockwool cube germination method and have followed the procedure correctly it could take 2 days or up to a week for it to germinate. If it’s over a week there could be issues.
Don’t get too deep. No more than a quarter of an inch.
Find a dark place or room to store the seeds. In order to germinate the seed needs to be in darkness so avoid places where light could leak in.
You need to make sure the pH of the water you used is in the correct range, 5.5 – 6.8. Depending on your pH meter it could be off as well if not properly calibrated or if you are using a cheaper pH meter. In these cases try removing the seed and re-soaking the rockwool cube in another batch of pH-adjusted water
There are multiple ways to germinate seeds. The rockwool cube method describe here is just one method. In addition, another popular method is the “paper towel” method where you place the seeds into a water soaked paper towel.
Successful Germination, Now What?
Congrats! If you succeeded in getting your cannabis seeds to sprout you are now on your way to growing a healthy marijuana plant.
Checkout our other marijuana grow phases posts to make sure you continue to succeed.