Let’s say I have a handful of strong females between the ages of a month and a half old. They’re in shallow 2-gallon buckets and the roots are covering the bottom of the pots already. Clearly they need to be transplanted. How long would it take for them to reach the bottom of a 5-gallon? And what’s the most efficient ways of keeping a 5-gallon bucket moist at the bottom without drowning my girls? — Greenhorn
Sounds like you definitely need to transplant your plants into larger containers. Water your plants thoroughly first and then gently remove them from their containers. Place them into the larger 5-gallon pots that have been pre-filled with your soil mix. Fill the empty space around your soil ball in with mix until level and then water it in again. It will be several weeks before the roots reach the bottom and much longer before the plants become root-bound again. It should be plenty of time for you to finish your harvest without having to transplant again.
You can keep your mix moist by bottom feeding the plants. This entails watering them from below by allowing roots to take up what they need. Just make sure they don’t sit in standing water for too long (no more than an hour). This also has the added benefit of keeping the top few inches of your soil from always being oversaturated, which creates a haven for pests and molds. It also helps conserve water as well. Several companies market buckets that have built in reservoirs for the purpose of watering from below and most work great.