5. From Seed to Seedling

Cannabis seeds

Seed Considerations

Choosing the right seeds is one of the most important decisions you’ll make when starting your new garden. As we discussed earlier regarding grow economics there are two main considerations when choosing the right strain to maximize the value of your grow:

1. Grow yield
2. THC content

Grow Yield

marijuana seedsIf height isn’t a consideration, there’s no question that choosing a proven strain that yields a significant amount of flower is the way to go. Empirical comparisons on grow yields are hard to find (so many different variables for everyone’s individual grow conditions), however, there’s a mountain of anecdotal evidence (forums and reviews) to support the view that choosing big growers pays off.

The Seedsman ‘High Yielding’ category is a good place to start to look for the right high-yielding seeds for your specific conditions (indoor / outdoor) and desired strain (indica/ sativa).

Sourcing marijuana clones with good genetics is also an excellent way to ensure you maximize your grow. The two distinct advantages here are consistency of seedlings’ genetics and region-specific grow advice (from your retailer).

Strong marijuana genetics can result in a grow with 30-50% greater yield than the average marijuana plant strain–a significant advantage to ensure hard work is rewarded.

THC Content

A cannabis strain with high THC content is worth 3x that of a low THC content. All things equal make sure you’re getting the most THC bang for your grow! We’re fans of strains with THC content over 20%, optimally they should be high-yielding varieties too.

Feminized Seeds

The advent of feminized marijuana seeds have significantly increased the success of harvests, particularly for novice marijuana growers who don’t have the experience identifying male strains early enough to discard them from the grow. If this is your first grow we highly recommend that you buy feminized seeds, as they’re bred to ensure there are no male chromosomes, resulting in a crop with high value resin-filled flower of female marijuana plants.

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Types of Cannabis Varieties

Although there isn’t a scientific division between marijuana plants, all available strains today come from two major varieties: cannabis sativa and cannabis indica.

This classification between the two major ‘breeds’ has been around since the 18th century when researchers created taxonomy lists based on plant structure and flower production. Although these two don’t belong in separate species, they’re very different in appearance and come from different parts of the world, each producing its own distinct ‘high’ and grow characteristics.

Marijuana seeds varieties - cannabis sativa and indica

Cannabis Sativa

Sativas originate from the tropical areas of Mexico, Central America, and Southeast Asia. Their heritage means that purebred sativas are well suited to the heat and humidity. They grow tall (10 to 17 ft.) and lean, making them ideal outdoor plants. Legend has it that sativas have strong psychoactive effects and are recommended for users who like a lot of THC.

Cannabis Indica

Indica varieties come from Asia and are shorter, bulkier and more accustomed to dry conditions. They’re hardier than sativas and they generally produce more resin on their flowers, to protect them from nature’s elements.

Purebred cannabis indica is native to the Hindu Kush mountain region, on the borders between Pakistan, Tajikistan, and India. The region is quite unforgiving and extremely different from the tropical environments of South and Central America.

Indica is often portrayed as the yin to sativa’s yang. The Spock to Kirk. The Rhett to Link. Anyway, you see the point: Allegedly, indica has sedative properties and therefore is preferred by medical users for its higher CBD content.

Hybrids

Under normal circumstances, it’s extremely difficult to get your hands on a 100% indica or sativa seed. Decades of selective breeding between high-yielding and extremely potent varieties have created some incredible transmutations that could have never developed in the wild. Usually, hybrids are packed with THC and CBD, plus they’re more resilient, as they bear genetics from all over the spectrum.

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How to Germinate Your Marijuana Seeds

Germination is the first life stage of your marijuana plant. During this process, you’ll want to help your seed to sprout before you plant it. You’ll know you’re successful when the little white taproot starts to pop out of the seed. After you plant it, this taproot will grow longer and longer until the first leaves of the plant start to appear.

Marijuana seeds need moisture and warmth in order to germinate. As a marijuana grower, it’s your job to help them make their first steps in the world. There are actually several techniques to germinate seeds, but we recommend two: Jiffy pellets and the  ‘paper towel’ method. Let’s take a closer look at each one of them. 

Germination with Jiffy Pellets

Germinating marijuana seeds with Jiffy peat pellets is one of the safest methods when growing on soil (which you’ll be doing). They’re not too hard to find either: you can pick them up at any store selling garden or home supplies. When you buy them they’re compressed and look pretty much like a hockey puck.

Germination with Jiffy peat pelletsUsing them is simple:

  • Put them in warm water until they expand
  • Squeeze out any excess water
  • Place a seed about 1 cm (0.4”) deep into the peat
  • Keep them moist and under direct sunlight and watch until the first leaves (cotyledons) start to pop out of the peat
  • Place the peat with the seedling in a disposable plastic cup

This method is by far the easiest and most practical, with the added bonus of you not getting your hands on the sensitive seedlings.

Germination with Paper Towels

This method is one of the oldest and easiest in the book.

Germination with paper towelTo germinate marijuana with paper towels, just follow a few simple steps:

  • Place seeds on a moistened paper towel on a plate and fold the paper over
  • Cover the plate with another plate to retain moisture
  • Check regularly: The seeds will usually take about 36-48 hours to sprout, although some might take over a week
  • When the seed sprouts, pick it up carefully and stick it 2cm deep (1”) into a disposable plastic cup, with the root facing down
  • Cover lightly and be sure to keep the pot under direct sunlight

The paper towel method is fairly easy to employ, although touching the taproot is never a good idea. Wearing latex gloves might help, but in any case, you should be very careful.

 

Transplanting your Marijuana Plants

Essentially, the ideal method for transplanting your young cannabis plants involves three crucial phases.

  1. Transplantation of marijuana plants in potsPlace germinated seeds in a disposable cup (be sure to cut holes at the bottom for drainage)
    • Allow the plant to grow its first few leaves
  2. Transfer them to a 1- to 3-gallon pot
    • For this stage you can just cut the plastic cup and stick the whole thing directly in the pot. Voila! You just completed the second transplant!
  3. Re-plant into the final container when the plants grow about 2x in size. The size of this final container can range significantly – depending on how big you want your plant to grow (the bigger the pot the bigger the plant). At this phase you can also plant directly into the ground–this will allow the roots maximum room for growth and allow the plant to reach its maximum size potential, in most cases exceeding 6 to 7 feet tall.

Although you might be tempted try to stick the pellet or the seed directly in the final pot, this is not advised. Seedlings have a weaker root system and they’ll have a hard time finding the oxygen necessary to expand in a larger container. This might stunt growth so it’s generally advisable to let your plant grow in smaller pots for the first few weeks of its life, until it grows a vigorous root system and is ready for the final transplant. That way you’ll maximize your plant’s growth potential and it will have a healthier root system.

Be sure not to leave the plant in the container for too long, as you run the risk of your plant becoming  ‘root-bound’. This basically means that the roots have become too large for the container, and have a harder time obtaining nutrients and oxygen. To avoid this, be sure to transplant your plants at the right time. You can tell your plant is growing too big for its container when it absorbs water within a day or two, or if it has been left there for months on end.

Transplanting is a stressful process both for the grower (especially beginners) and the plant. Here are some tips to make the experience as smooth as possible:

  • Make sure your growing medium is moist before transplanting, so it will come right off.
  • Before you start, fill the new container with soil and leave some room at the top. Water it before proceeding.
  • Dig a hole in the middle to make room for the root ball. Make sure its size is similar to the previous container.
  • When it’s time to take out the plant from its existing container, use a flat elongated tool (like a plastic knife) to separate the root system from the pot. Do not grab the plant by the stem and pull it out!
  • Gently place the plant in the container and make sure everything comes together nicely.

Generally, it’s ok to transplant a little earlier. However, if the process scares you, remember that you can always make the transplant to the final pot. Be aware though that growth won’t be as quick and you’ll have to be wary of excessive watering.

 

Whatever You Do: Start Indoors!

We strongly recommend that you start the germination and first cup transplant indoors before moving things outside. This has a lot of advantages – for example, you can control things better in a self-contained environment and it should minimize plant stress. Marijuana plants are especially sensitive at this point of their lives, indoor grow lights can also be used during this phase to better growth. Your decision when to transfer your plant outdoors will ultimately depend on your local climate conditions, which we expand on below.

If you have the budget we recommend an outdoor greenhouse grow rack with a protective cover. It provides excellent protection against wind and cold while still having access to sunlight. Additionally, the grow rack can accommodate LED grow lights for the early seedling stage.

greenhouse grow rackLED marijuana grow lights


Chapter 6 – From Seedling to Monster »

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