I hear a lot of indoor and container gardeners speaking about how transplanting is bad, and how we should want to minimize the damages and stresses to a root zone that transplanting poses in order to keep our plants from being sad.
None of us want sad plants.
Mangling and abusing the root zone it is not a good idea - trauma is not good for anyone. I don't care what they say about "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger.", its a crap sentiment, because a maiming is not something that any organism wants, and it's not the way to help something thrive. No plant wants to be abused. Agreed.
Transplanting is something else.
It is a form of plant management that considers the optimal and most efficient environment for a plant's root zone at any stage of growth. Transplanting is
- a way of controlling growth.
- of keeping costs down
- and of reducing the problems caused by environmental excesses - in this case:
Humidity/moisture - either the lack or excess of,
the temperature differential caused by changes in humidity
and its effect on the attractiveness of the system to pathogens.
My advise when container gardening and growing indoors: Start small with your plants: Small is beautiful. a seed, a hole, a tiny plot. some place for the roots to grow in - like a crib, contained and not prone to change. Then give it some space. At each interval, when the roots have filled in, give it more room and energy.
A good rule to use is: Double the diameter of the pot every time the roots inform you they need room. Done right, transplant every several weeks until the plant is set to produce.
This schedule can be modified to manage growth - hold it longer and keep a plant from exploding,or let it loose in the right conditions and it will thank you. Also, smaller pots mean less water and stagnation as well as fewer nutrients and lower costs.
If you follow this process you can keep the substrate moist and not risk rots. The roots can handle it. In too large of a container for too small a root mass, over-watering is death or stagnation. Don't do it... you'll only waste money and time and make your plants suffer. However, if the roots can reach it - the plant will drink it and nothing is wasted.
At each transplant interval, give the plant what it needs: When the time comes to transplant it: Be gentle. It is also a good idea to use containers that facilitate easy removal - graduated and conical shapes are best. Massage and whack the outside to release the root mass from the pot: Done well, the plant will barely notice.
Emulating nature is great, but urban gardeners have the ability to control and emulate the optimal environment in a compressed way and can consistently and rapidly coax plants into optimal states for harvest. With the right conditions and proper care there is some certainty that horticulture can bring out more from a plant than nature can alone.