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How And When To Transplant Your Cannabis Plants

Knowing how and when to transplant your cannabis babies can literally tip the scales in your direction when harvest time comes around. Learn everything you need to know about why, when, and how to transplant your cannabis.

How to transplant your cannabis: tips and advice.

  • 1. Why is transplanting your cannabis important?
  • 2. How often do you need to transplant?
  • 3. When to transplant your cannabis
  • 4. How much space does cannabis need?
  • 4.a. Why not plant into the biggest pot?
  • 4.b. What type of pots should I use?
  • 5. How to transplant cannabis
  • 6. Transplanting: step-by-step guide
  • 7. Size of pots indoors and outdoors
  • 8. What about transplanting autoflowers?
  • 9. Understanding Autoflowering Cannabis Plants
  • 10. Can You Transplant Autoflowering Cannabis Seedlings?
  • 11. How Does Transplanting Affect Autoflowering Cannabis Plants?
  • 12. When Is the Best Time to Transplant Autoflowering Cannabis Plants?
  • 13. How to Transplant Autoflowering Cannabis Plants
  • 14. Plan Ahead to Avoid Transplanting
  • 1. Why is transplanting your cannabis important?
  • 2. How often do you need to transplant?
  • 3. When to transplant your cannabis
  • 4. How much space does cannabis need?
  • 4.a. Why not plant into the biggest pot?
  • 4.b. What type of pots should I use?
  • 5. How to transplant cannabis
  • 6. Transplanting: step-by-step guide
  • 7. Size of pots indoors and outdoors
  • 8. What about transplanting autoflowers?
  • 9. Understanding Autoflowering Cannabis Plants
  • 10. Can You Transplant Autoflowering Cannabis Seedlings?
  • 11. How Does Transplanting Affect Autoflowering Cannabis Plants?
  • 12. When Is the Best Time to Transplant Autoflowering Cannabis Plants?
  • 13. How to Transplant Autoflowering Cannabis Plants
  • 14. Plan Ahead to Avoid Transplanting

Healthy roots mean strong plants and fat, resin-jewelled buds on your cannabis. You want everything big—the bigger the better!

Whether you’ve decided to grow in a SOG, a ScrOG, or are keeping things super-simple, no matter what, you should transplant your cannabis into larger pots at least twice. There are, of course, some exceptions to this rule—which we will clear up later down the line—but first, let’s pose an all-important question.

WHY IS TRANSPLANTING YOUR CANNABIS IMPORTANT?

Unlike with hydroponics, growing in a solid medium like soil or coco makes transplanting into bigger pots necessary as your plants grow. Why is that?

As the roots expand into the substrate and seek out nutrients, their network will grow to encompass as much space as possible. When the roots have completely filled out the volume of the pot, running circles around the inside perimeter of the container, growers refer to these plants as “root bound”. Vegetative growth will slow down, ultimately limiting the potential of your yields as well.

By transplanting to bigger pots early on, we can prevent this from happening. Transplanting ensures the roots always have space to grow freely and vigorously.

HOW OFTEN DO YOU NEED TO TRANSPLANT?

Contrary to what we said in the beginning of this article, you don’t technically need to transplant; but you should—especially if you want to max out yield.

Plants grow faster in smaller pots but are more susceptible to overwatering and overfeeding. When you start in small seedling pots or solo cups, the risk of fungus and other growing problems is largely mitigated, but new problems arise once your soon-to-be vegetative plants want to establish a strong root system.

A good way to go about transplanting is to keep your babies in seedling containers until they’ve each developed at least three nodes. At this point, you can transplant your specimens into larger pots until they double in size. Eventually, you’ll want to move your plants to their final, largest containers where they can truly flourish.

Typically, you will transplant a (photoperiod) plant 2–3 times. Re-potting more frequently isn’t recommended as transplanting causes significant stress.

WHEN TO TRANSPLANT YOUR CANNABIS

Let’s run over a list of visual indicators that can help you determine if your plants need to be moved to larger pots!

Size of the plant: If a plant has visibly outgrown the pot, it’s time to transplant. Look to the number of nodes as a guideline.

Speed of growth: If you see your plant’s growth accelerating in a too-small pot, transplant before growth becomes stunted. As a hint, the more fan leaves your plants have, the more they can photosynthesise, and the bigger they will become.

Root development: If plants are rootbound or roots are coming out of the pot, they need to be transplanted.

Problems with watering: Your growing plants are thirsty! If the pot dries out too quickly, it’s likely your ladies need a larger vessel.

Growing problems: If you observe slow growth or a sickly appearance from plants in undersized pots, it could be due to the size of their container.

HOW MUCH SPACE DOES CANNABIS NEED?

In nature, the spacing of plants affects how they grow. When cannabis is grown for industrial purposes, it is planted very close together. The resulting root tangling releases hormones that encourage a tall plant without much side branching. This characteristic has been exploited by humans for a long time to obtain perfect fibres uninterrupted by heavy branching.

When growing marijuana for personal use, however, you generally want to allow each plant more space—not just to encourage branching and robust growth, but to keep plants healthy overall. So, how big should your containers be at each stage of growth?

As a guide to help you utilise your space and time efficiently, here is a list of standard pot sizes alongside the stage of growth they are typically used during. A very reasonable plant can be grown in a 30cm pot as its final container, and an exceptional plant in a

60cm pot. All standard pots are alike in that their diameter at the rim is equal to their depth. A healthy cannabis plant can easily have a canopy three times the diameter of the pot.

For seedlings and young vegging plants

For robust vegging plants

HOW MUCH SPACE DOES CANNABIS NEED?
For seedlings and young
vegging plants
For robust vegging plants Beginning of final pot size
threshold
10cm = 0.5l 25cm = 11l 46cm = 57l
13–15cm = 1l 30cm = 19l 61cm = 95l
18–20cm = 4l 36cm = 26l 76cm = 114l
22cm = 7.5l 41cm = 38l

WHY NOT PLANT INTO THE BIGGEST POT?

This is up to you. However, a large pot with plenty of soil that is yet to be infiltrated by roots poses a risk of waterlogging. This means you need to be careful when watering so as not to support conditions for mould, rot, or any other type of pathogen or infection.

Cannabis likes dry feet, so err on the side of caution. If planting directly in the biggest pot right away, water sparingly during the first week after potting on. Consider that smaller pots are easier to look after, particularly in the early weeks of vegetation. Small pots are also easier to move when tending to, and can be easily rotated for 360° light coverage.

WHAT TYPE OF POTS SHOULD I USE?

Most cannabis growers opt for standard white plastic pots with drainage holes in the bottom. Why white pots? Black or other dark colours will generate heat as the sun beats down, whereas white containers will help the soil stay relatively cool. Alternatively, some growers like to use air pots or fabric pots, which naturally “air-prune” the roots and allow for optimal health and development. For seedlings, growers tend to use plastic solo cups or specially designed seedling pots.

HOW TO TRANSPLANT CANNABIS

The most important rule to keep in mind when transplanting is that transplant shock causes a lot of stress to your plants. Be extremely careful; the less root damage, the better! This is not a process to rush.

Another important factor is cleanliness. Ensure your working area is clean, and wash your hands before you handle your plants. Better yet, wear gloves.

Do not transplant during the day in the bright sun or under an intense grow light. To avoid exposing your roots to undue light, transplant at night.

TRANSPLANTING: STEP-BY-STEP GUIDE

1. When transplanting your seedling, water them 1–2 days before transplanting. The soil should be moist but not wet. For later transplants, a drier soil will help the root ball stick together.

2. Prepare the new pot by filling it with good-quality soil. Don’t fill it all the way up and don’t overpack. Water the new pot. Dig a hole in the centre large enough for the new plant.

3. With your hand, cover the soil in the old pot (with your plant) and carefully flip it over. The plant should stick out between your fingers.

4. Carefully slide out the root ball and remove the old container. If the root ball doesn’t come right out, gently squeeze and pat the sides of the pot to loosen the soil. If still stuck, lay the pot horizontally on the floor and try to slide out the root ball. If it still won’t come out, use a knife and cut around the outer rim of the soil to free it (use this only as a last resort). Do not grab the plant and try to pull it out with force!

5. When the plant is finally freed, keep a hand under the root ball and transfer the plant to its new hole in its new container. Use extra soil and fill in the gaps. Pat down the soil just slightly to keep your plant in place.

6. Lightly water the plant to help it settle into its new home. This is a good time to use a root stimulator. Root stimulators help ease transplant shock and promote root development.

Pro Tips:

• We recommend preparing your new soil with Easy Boost organic plant nutrition. Add about 50–100g Easy Boost per 20l of soil. Easy Boost is an organic fertiliser that provides your plants with food for 10–12 weeks.

• How long does transplant shock last? It depends, but a few days of slow or stunted growth after transplanting is normal. Allow plants to recover for at least two weeks before inducing bloom or carrying out high-stress training methods.

• If plants are looking weak right after transplanting, support them with stakes.

• Sterilise old containers to reuse in the future.

The environmentally friendly RQS fabric pot, complete with proprietary “Aqua Breathe” geotextile layer, lets your plant’s roots breathe for optimal growth.

The environmentally friendly RQS fabric pot, complete with proprietary “Aqua Breathe” geotextile layer, lets your plant’s roots breathe for optimal growth.

SIZE OF POTS INDOORS AND OUTDOORS

When it comes to recommended pot sizes, this will vary based on whether you are growing indoors or outdoors.

Indoors, you’re constrained by the size of your growing area and the number and expected size of your plants. When growing outdoors, there are often fewer limitations.

Outdoors, you could, in principle, grow as large a plant as you want. This ensures the roots of your cannabis can grow extensively for the biggest possible yields. On the other hand, pots that are too big are not optimal either: If the roots can’t fill an oversized pot, you will end up wasting nutrients.

Large and heavy outdoor pots can also be an issue should you need to move them around. Alternatively, if you’re growing in the wild, you can just plant directly in the ground. This way, plants are not limited by pot size and can reach their full potential.

WHAT ABOUT TRANSPLANTING AUTOFLOWERS?

We generally suggest you avoid transplanting autos and instead plant your germinated autoflowering seeds directly into their final pots. Here’s why:

Understanding Autoflowering Cannabis Plants

Autoflowering cannabis strains flower based on age rather than changes in their light cycle. They get this trait from Cannabis ruderalis, a unique cannabis variety native to certain areas of Eastern Europe and Russia.

Hence, whereas photoperiod strains flower once the days get shorter (or you flip their lights from 18/6 to 12/12), autoflowering strains will flower automatically after about four weeks, although this can vary from one strain to another.

Can You Transplant Autoflowering Cannabis Seedlings?

Yes, you can technically transplant an autoflowering cannabis seedling. However, there is a downside to doing so.

When you transplant a photoperiod strain, you’ll typically keep it in veg for an extra week to help the plant recover from the stress of being transplanted. When transplanting an auto, you don’t have that same luxury, and the stress of the transplant will typically have a bigger impact on the plant’s growth and yield.

How Does Transplanting Affect Autoflowering Cannabis Plants?

A plant’s roots are super sensitive. No matter how gentle you are when transplanting, you’re going to cause your plants some stress when moving them into a new pot.

On average, cannabis plants can take up to 7 days to completely overcome that stress, although this can vary depending on the overall health of a plant (healthier plants will take less time to recover).

Because you have no way to compensate for this stress when growing autos, your plants will typically show signs of stunted growth following the transplant, which will ultimately translate into lighter, lower-quality yields.

When Is the Best Time to Transplant Autoflowering Cannabis Plants?

If you must transplant an auto, timing is absolutely crucial to minimise the impact on your yields. Try to transplant your autos once they’ve developed strong roots and at least 4–5 true leaves.

How to Transplant Autoflowering Cannabis Plants

When transplanting an autoflowering cannabis plant, remember to follow these steps to minimise the shock to your plant’s roots.

Equipment

  • A clean work area
  • Gardening or surgical gloves
  • New pot and soil

Prepare Your Plants, Pots, and Work Area

Avoid watering your plants the day you transplant them, as it’ll be easier to remove dry soil from the container. Also, prepare a clean work area where you’ll perform the transplant. A big, clean table works great.

Finally, prepare your plant’s new pot. You may need to fill the bottom of the new pot with some soil to get your plant to the right height. Also, remember to make sure your new pot has drainage holes.

Remove Your Auto From Its Old Pot

To remove a plant from its pot, tip it over and gently push, massage, or slap the bottom and edges of the pot. Don’t pull at your plant’s stem, as you’ll risk damaging or breaking it!

Place Your Auto in Its New Pot

Place your plant inside the new pot and fill it roughly 2cm from the top with soil. Water generously and, if need be, top up with more soil. Keep a close eye on your plant over the next 3–7 days to check how it is recovering from the transplant.

Plan Ahead to Avoid Transplanting

To get the best results when growing autos, we recommend you plant them directly in their final pots. Most auto varieties will do great in 11–12l pots.

While they’re young, avoid overwatering your autoflowers to prevent drowning their small, delicate roots. Instead, mist their leaves regularly. Once they’ve developed a few true leaves, water them as needed.

Read all about how and when to transplant your cannabis plants. We offer some helpful tips and a step-by-step guide to make the process as easy as possible.

When Do I Transplant Cannabis Plants?

Why Should I Transplant My Cannabis Plants?

There are advantages to transplanting your marijuana, and this transplant guide and tutorial will teach you when and how to transplant your pot plants perfectly every time. But why should growers transplant their weed plants in the first place? Why not just plant them in their final container from the beginning? The reason is that a proper transplanting regimen actually makes your plants grow faster in the vegetative stage!

Transplanting Young Cannabis Plants At The Right Time Makes Them Grow Faster!

If you start your cannabis plants in a relatively small container they will grow faster than if you planted your seedlings or clones in a big container. This is because it’s easier for a small cannabis plant roots to get the right mixture of air and water when they’re not waterlogged in a big container.

Small Cannabis Plants Grow Faster in Small Containers

But if you do start small, you need to transfer your plants to bigger containers as they grow to ensure the roots have plenty of room to expand. When roots don’t have enough room, they’ll eventually form a “wall” around the edges of the container. This can cause an array of strange root problems.

If left in a container too long, the cannabis plant will actually become “root-bound.” Think of it as if the roots are choking themselves.The plant roots are unable to effectively get the right ratio of oxygen, water and nutrients, and unless the plant is transplanted, the problem continues to get worse as the roots wrap tighter and tighter. Some growers will even use too-small containers to constrict their cannabis plants on purpose and keep them from getting bigger! So when it comes to transplanting cannabis, you want to make sure you transplant at the right time so your plant roots never run out of room. You’ll actually be hurting their growth if you wait too long to transplant!

A root-bound cannabis plant – transplant your plants before it comes to this!

Root-bound cannabis plants grow very slowly and may even stop growing altogether. In addition to proper transplantation, you can prevent cannabis from getting rootbound by growing plants in smart pots (fabric pots) or air pots since they let air in from the sides. This automatically “prunes” the roots around the edges so they can’t form a wall. Plants don’t get rootbound, and tend to grow faster overall in containers like this compared to regular containers, but they need to watered about twice as often as a similarly sized regular pot since the growing medium is constantly being dried from the sides.

Smart Pots (Fabric Pots) & Air Pots Prevent Cannabis From Becoming Root-Bound

They also make it much harder to overwater your plants. The main drawback is they need to be watered much more often than a regular pot. (learn more about them here)

It is really nice that cannabis plants just plain grow faster in pots like smart pots and air pot. I personally recommend them if you can get a bigger size so you don’t have to water as often. Besides solo cups, fabric pots are the only type of container I use for growing cannabis in soil or coco coir! But I digress…

When a marijuana plant is root-bound, it may display a host of seemingly random symptoms such as drooping and nutrient deficiencies, but usually the main symptom is slow growth.

Root-Bound Cannabis Plant in Solo Cup

Drooping, strange leaf symptoms, yellowing and other cannabis nutrient deficiencies can be caused by a too-small container, like the plant pictured below.

The roots are unable to get the right mixture of air, water and nutrients in a too-small container because the roots are wrapped around the edges. The best (and really only) way to fix up a cannabis plant that has become rootbound is to transplant it to a new, bigger container.

Remember, it is okay to plant your young cannabis in a large container right from the beginning if you want to avoid transplanting your marijuana altogether; just know that they may grow a bit slower for the first few weeks compared to if you started them in something small like a solo cup. If you do want to achieve faster growth rates with transplanting, this tutorial gives you a good general guide to make sure you transplant at just the right time, so your plants never get stressed out, and grow as fast as possible.

There’s nothing wrong with planting seeds directly in a big container! The cannabis just grows a little bit slower at first.

How Can I Tell If My Cannabis Plant Is Rootbound?

It can be hard to know exactly when to transplant your cannabis plants into a new container. Here are some scenarios where you might consider transplanting your plants:

  • Soil is drying out too quickly – When your container is drying out only a day or two after each watering it means your plant is drinking fast and needs more water than your current container can hold
  • Plant is getting root problems – A cannabis plant can start showing root problems when it’s kept in a too-small container or if it’s become root-bound. These root problems can cause the plant to become droopy, or show unexpected leaf symptoms or deficiencies (such as spots or yellowing leaves). Whenever literally everything else is right but you’re still experiencing these problems, it may be a sign you need to transplant.
  • Plant has grown a lot or been in the same container for months. If you’re keeping a mother plant for months, or if a plant has doubled in size in the same container, those are signs you may need to transplant to prevent your plant from getting rootbound.
  • Plant is tipping over from its own weight. When your cannabis plant is much wider and taller than its container, it’s easy to tip over and therefore should be transplanted to a bigger pot that can hold it steady.
  • Plant is just plain too big for container (pics below) – There are some pictures below to give you an idea of what a plant looks like that needs to be transplanted. Some plants are just plain too big for the containers they are in.

Now let me give you a few real-life examples you can use to refer to. The following transplanting pictures should help give you an idea of exactly when to transplant your cannabis plants!

These marijuana plants are ready to be transplanted

This cannabis seedling is ready to transplant – you can transplant a cannabis plant from a solo cup once its leaves reach the edges. Don’t wait much longer than this for a seedling in a solo cup!

This next cannabis seedling is huge for a solo cup – it should have been transplanted weeks ago! The strange curling symptoms are a sign that the roots aren’t happy. Once this plant was transplanted it started growing perfectly again.

Sometimes a rootbound cannabis plant shows strange symptoms that almost look like nutrient deficiencies and/or overwatering, when the real problem is it just needs a bigger container!

This next marijuana plant is also way too big for its solo cup. Although it still looks relatively healthy, notice the yellowing bottom leaves with spots and bluish color. If this plant isn’t transplanted to a bigger container, those leaf symptoms will continue moving up the plant and start causing problems. Additionally, most likely this plant would already be much bigger if its roots weren’t being constrained by the solo cup.

These marijuana plants aren’t showing symptoms yet, but they’re getting too big for their pots and should be transplanted soon, especially before they start flowering!

These cannabis plants are way too big for their containers and they’re starting to show strange leaf symptoms, drooping and curling because roots aren’t getting what they need

When a cannabis plant is much wider than its pot, it should be moved to a bigger container even if it’s not showing signs of being root-bound. Not only will the plant roots love the extra space, your plant won’t be so easy to tip over!

This cannabis plant was not transplanted before it started flowering. Although it was healthy its whole life, in the middle of the flowering stage it started drooping and showing these symptoms, because the plant was rootbound. Although it’s generally not recommended to transplant a marijuana plant in the flowering stage, that’s what was needed to fix up this plant and get to harvest!

Seed to Final Container: When to Transplant

1.) Start seeds or clones in a seedling plug/cube or germination station and wait until you start seeing roots come out the bottom (or skip this step and plant seeds directly in a solo cup).

This grower has waited too long before transplanting to bigger container
(it’s good to transfer once you start seeing roots)

2.) Place young plants in a solo cup with holes in the bottom to allow water to drain freely.

Make sure to cut holes in the bottom of the solo cup first, so water can drain out the bottom easily!

Just dig a small hole and stick the starter cubes directly into the new growing medium.

Allow them to grow a few sets of leaves, until the leaves reach the edges, like this…

Once the leaves have reached the edges of the solo cup, it’s time to transfer to a bigger container to prevent your seedlings from getting rootbound.

3.) Transfer plants to a 1, 2 or 3 gallon pot

Instead of pulling the whole plant out of the container, it’s often easier to just cut away the solo cup when you plan on transplanting. This is one of the advantages of starting in disposable cups – it makes transplanting easy and stress-free.

4.) Transfer again when plants double in height

Plants are ready to transfer again when they have about doubled in height.

They should look something like this…

If you’re growing big plants and your cannabis plants double in size again, you may need to transfer one more time!

5.) Transfer cannabis plants into their final container! That’s it. You’re done with transplanting your weed plants!

Now you just need to worry about taking care of your plants until you’re ready to start flowering/budding. Remember plants will usually double (or even triple) in size from when you first initiate the flowering stage.

Note: You can skip some of the steps in the cannabis transplant guide above. Just make sure you’re careful not to overwater small plants in too-big containers. Once plants start growing vigorously, you don’t need to worry as much about overwatering.

Tips For Easy & Stress-Free Transplanting

  1. Water your cannabis plants 1-2 days before transplanting. This will help the growing medium stay together (since it’s moist), but still slide out easily (since it’s not soaking wet).
  2. Before you get started, fill your new pot with potting mix. Don’t fill the pot to the top, instead leave about 2 extra inches (5 cm). That way you can easily water the plant without all the water running off the sides.
  3. Water this new container of potting mix before you begin the transplant so it’s nice and moist. If you don’t water the new soil first, it can have a hard time absorbing water after the transplant, and your roots won’t like that!
  4. Since you will soon be adding a new plant, you want to dig out a hole in the middle that’s about the size of your old container.
  5. Take your plant, and carefully slide a butter knife inside the container all around the edges to help separate the rootball from the sides of the pot. Avoid grabbing the plant directly by the stem. Try to grab the whole top with a flat hand, and turn the container upside down so you can gently pat the rootball out and catch it with your flat hand. You may have to gently pull the plant out of the container, but go slowly and be gentle!
  6. Plant the rootball directly into the new container, placing it in the hole you dug out earlier. You may need to add some extra soil to ensure a nice flat topsoil.
  7. Gently pat down around the roots, to help press everything together slightly, then water your plant immediately. If you do it right, it won’t stress your plants at all!

Minimize Transplant Shock

The process of transplanting can shock your cannabis plants, especially if you wait too long to transplant.

Learn how to avoid cannabis transplant shock!

You can help avoid causing your cannabis plants stress during transplant by following these principles:

  • Transplant your cannabis plants after their roots have begun to fill container (to help hold all the growing medium together) but before the roots have started wrapping around the edges (plants have become rootbound).​
  • Water your cannabis plants 1-2 days before transplanting. This will help the growing medium stay together (since it’s moist), but still slide out easily (since it’s not soaking wet).
  • It’s better to transfer too early than too late!
  • If the roots haven’t grown all around the sides of the root ball (plant isn’t rootbound), avoid disturbing the roots if possible. There’s no need to shake out dirt, just carefully move entire root ball directly into the next pot.
  • Make sure your plants are in their final container at least 1-2 weeks before you switch them over to the flowering stage, and avoid transplanting plants during the flowering/budding stage if you can since the stress may affect your final yields.
  • If your cannabis plants seem like they are suffering from transplant shock (leaf symptoms, drooping, slowed growth), it can be helpful to use a seaweed kelp extract (often available as a liquid fertilizer) to help your cannabis recover more quickly.
  • If transplanting seems scary, it’s okay to plant your seed or clone in its final destination right at the beginning, just be wary of overwatering until the plant is growing vigorously and has a few sets of leaves. You can increase the amount of oxygen available to your plants by adding extra perlite to loosen the soil and allow water to drain through more easily
  • Water your cannabis properly after they’ve been transplanted for the best results!

If you follow all these steps, you may notice that your plant doesn’t show any signs of stress at all!

What Size Should my Final Container Be?

This depends on what size plant you plan to grow, since bigger plants require bigger containers, while smaller plants grow fastest in a relatively small container. For the best results, you need to match the size of your plant with the size of your container.

A general guide is to have up to 2 gallons per 12″ of height. This isn’t perfect, since plants often grow differently, and some plants are short and wide instead of tall, but this is a good rule of thumb.

So if your final (desired) plant size is…

2-3 gallon container

3-5 gallon container

5-7 gallon container

6-10 gallon container

8-10+ gallon container

Go Bigger If You Need to Spend Time Away From Your Cannabis

However, if you plan on being away from your plant for more than a day or two during the grow, it can’t hurt to go up a size or two. The bigger the container, the less often you need to water. So even if you get slightly slower growth in a too-big container, you will definitely be able to spend more time away from your plants without having to water them!

Did you know that transplanting your cannabis at just the right time will actually make your plants to grow faster? Luckily transplanting is easy with a little planning, and only take a few minutes! ]]>