I wanted to know the best way to encourage lots of fine feeder roots for a healthy plant. I started a couple of lemon trees from a drink cup seed last year as an experiment. I used a wicking system to start them and one seed had about half the room of the other. They both started very well and grew, but the one that had twice the volume of dirt as the other grew twice as big in the same time frame.
When I talk about the amount of space, I mean that I used two 20oz soda bottles with the tops cut off, inverted and set in the bottoms with strings dangling down into water. one bottle I cut off the top third and the other bottle I cut almost in half.
However, the roots in these and many other of the plants I repot, tended to grow straight down with a tap root. Of course I did get some branching roots, but I don't get anything as pretty as when I buy a potted plant from a nursery or store and remove the pot to find there are almost as many fine roots as dirt. I just feel like these fine feeder roots are more healthy than the just having the large stringy roots. I'd like to know how to encourage them to form.
I lost one of the lemon trees for an undetermined reason. The other grew a couple of feet tall, but started to die off when I moved it outside and slowly acclimated it to the sun last summer. It's inside for the winter and only has one leaf left. I don't have a lot of hope for it and I'll start over soon. The eventual goal is to have one lemon tree in a large pot that I'll move inside for the winters and outside for the hot and humid SC summers.
I know you are supposed to move up pot sizes gradually, to prevent the roots from taking off and not using all the pot space. Also, so that when you water the pot doesn't hold more water than the plant can uptake, leading to root rot.
On the other hand. I started two plants in exactly the same manner and conditions, just separate container sizes and the larger container size did better. It wasn't leggy or anything. As a matter of fact, the smaller container was too small and I ended up having to move it to a bigger container because it was looking sickly. It recovered in the larger pot, but ultimately died.
Any help you can provide me in encouraging fine feeder roots will be greatly appreciated. I'm just not sure how to balance it. If smaller containers encourage more fine roots, but you have to disturb them by repotting to a larger container, it seems counter productive.